If TV has taught me one thing in the time I’ve been running a website it’s not to get your hopes up when a series that you used to love comes back for a one-off special. Don’t get me wrong there are expectations to the rule. Cracker, which returned with a one-off special in 2006 was fantastic and The Royle Family’s Queen of Sheba episode which saw a wonderfully poignant performance from Liz Smith was a masterpiece. Sadly that is almost never the case though. Something peculiar happens when a once loved show returns, it’s as if it loses the magic. Obviously the actors are older and perhaps the world has moved on but something doesn’t feel right.
Take Still Open All Hours which even the BBC deemed not quite good enough for a Christmas Day outing. I used to love the series, but some 20 years on it felt stale, out of touch and genuinely dated. Sir David Jason seemed to be going through the motions with a script that would’ve felt out of date back in the first series of the shop based sitcom. Even the afore mentioned Royle Family has seemingly lost the spark that made it one of my favourites of all time. The recent episodes of the sitcom which have seen the family holiday in a caravan and meet Dave’s parents have been embarrassing and sadly only served to tarnish the reputation and reliability of the original series.
Having been bitten so many times you can imagine the the look on my face when it was announced ITV was to resurrect the BBC’s Birds of a Feather. It might have been a hit with viewers but was hardly of the standard of the period when giants like Only Fools and Horses and One Foot in the Grave reigned supreme. I remember enjoying elements of Birds of a Feather when I was a child but it was never appointment viewing. The recently launched Drama Channel has been reshowing the original (god knows why a drama channel is showing it but that’s a different moan all together), and it’s fair to say it hasn’t aged well. It looks and feels ancient. It was with some trepidation and an air of indifference that I sat down to watch the new series.
It was an utterly bizarre experience. Some elements felt liked slipping on a familiar old coat that you’d rediscovered after months in the loft, whilst other elements felt like stepping back into a by gone era that made me want to double check I wasn’t watching a repeat on Drama.
Of course there were enough modern references here to keep you from checking the calender. References to Fifty Shades of Grey, The Bedroom Tax and modern music seemed to be the writer’s way of screaming at the audience “THIS IS A NEW ONE!” I found literally impossible not to sing along with the theme tune. I enjoyed it when the three girls where under the same roof again and bickering like they used to, but all the pre-amble to get Sharon and Tracy back together again felt forced and embarrassing.
Early indications show that this opener was seen by 7.8m/31.9% winning 8.30 slot, but the pessimist in me wonders how many of those millions like me, tuned into see whether ITV had made a smart decision in bringing back this vintage BBC comedy. I can understand that some would enjoy seeing characters they loved back on screen and as I say elements did feel nostalgic, but it still saddens me that broadcasters feel that have to bring back ‘favourites’ because the current raft of comedies aren’t connecting with viewers.
The real test for Birds of a Feather is whether it can maintain impressive figures like that or whether it was just a case of curiosity on how it would work. I can’t promise I’ll stick with it, whilst you may feel like I’m whining as I did enjoy some of it and it was a vast improvement on quality of Still Open All Hours, but I don’t really feel like we need either of these.
Birds of a Feather Continues Thursday at 8.30pm on ITV.