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Southampton TV expert examines why old sitcoms are still our favourites
IT is the classic sitcom about two sisters and their meddling neighbour.
Birds of a Feather was a huge family favourite with audiences gathered round their televisions back in the 1990s.
Resurrected by ITV last year, the comedy will now get a second series after it proved once again a hit – attracting eight million viewers.
But is it a good thing that TV bosses are trawling the archives in a desperate bid to win the ratings war? Can we now look forward to revivals of other much-loved shows flooding the schedules in the way Hollywood remakes classic movies?
One Southampton television expert has warned against relying on old favourites to raise viewing figures.
Marc Blake, associate lecturer of screen writing at Solent University and author of How Not to Write Sitcom, says, although there is the occasional exception to the rule, most sitcoms belong to a particular moment in time.
He said that Birds of a Feather is about a certain class and that the bond of two sisters will “always find an audience, but it has a bit of an air of desperation about it”.
“Sitcom is of its time, mood and generation,” he added.
“Why can we not fund new writers? Find new stories to tell? With the closure of BBC3 we may never know.”
He said old versions of programmes like Birds of a Feather have a place in people’s hearts because it speaks to them about a particular time in their lives.
This was encapsulated by programmes like American series Friends for people in their 20s in the 1990s and Only Fools and Horses, which captured a generation in the 1980s.
However, Mr Blake pointed to an update of the 1970s BBC sitcom, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, called Reggie Perrin, which failed to take off and said its revival had been a mistake.
“No longer do we have jobs for life or the mid-life crisis, which was at the heart of this,” he said.
“The remake lacked the grit and bite of the original.”
He pointed to Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous as two series he thought would not be wise to revisit for a new generation.
One exception to the rule, he said, is Dad’s Army which was already dated when it came out in 1968 and therefore never dates.
Birds of a Feather was first launched 25 years ago, but was axed by the BBC in 1998.
It focuses on the lives of Sharon and Tracey, played by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who share a home in Chigwell, Essex after their husbands are sent to prison.
Original creators Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have written the new episodes and some of the original characters have reprised their roles, including man-eater friend Dorien Green, played by Leslie Joseph.
The first series pulled in average audiences of eight million.
ITV’s director of comedy and entertainment Elaine Bedell said: “We’re very pleased that the brilliant chemistry between these three great actresses once again attracted the large and loyal audience that Birds of a Feather deserves.
“The writers and producers have done a fantastic job in making the show feel funny, fresh and relevant.”
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