Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Birds of a Feather: the verdict

Good to see Birds of a Feather pull in eight million viewers on ITV, proof that the Chigwell-based comedy is still held in much affection. Some of the jokes were a little laboured, but the easy chemistry was still there between Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph as Sharon, Tracey and Dorien. It was a nice idea to have Dorien as Fifty Shades of Green author Foxy Cohen and thankfully the series didn’t go too far down the Towie route.

Writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran got in some topical jokes too, about the bedroom tax on Sharon’s council flat, pound shops and Essex Tories. One quibble though: Foxy Cohen was signing at the Chigwell Bookshop – surely it would be a beauty salon or nail parlour by now and she’d be flogging her book on Amazon?

The broadsheet reviews have been quite sniffy, however, feeling that Essex comedy has had its day. The Daily Telegraph wrote: “When it debuted in 1989, one dimly recalls that it briefly felt funny, fresh and very much of its time, as Essex culture – an oxymoron? – was a huge source of humour, with jokes about Shazzas in white stilettos and Dazzas in Ford Capris guaranteeing belly laughs all over the country. These days, we have interminable reality show The Only Way Is Essex to confirm all those stereotypes.”

While the Independent suggested: “Brash, moneyed and Thatcherite Essex was culturally relevant when Birds of a Feather first aired in 1989, but, after ten series of The Only Way Is Essex, the milieu has long since morphed into a cartoon parody.”

It will be interesting to see how the series develops. Surely Essex is just as culturally relevant as it was in 1989, what with a Thatcherite government, dodgy bankers and a growing underclass? Judging by the ratings there’s a willing audience for the comfortable old slippers of Birds of a Feather whatever the critics may say. 

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