Birds of a Feather (commonly abbreviated to BOAF) is a British sitcom originally broadcast on BBC One from 16 October 1989 to 24 December 1998, then revived on ITV from 2 January 2014. Starring Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph, it was created by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who also wrote some of the episodes along with many other writers.
The first episode sees sisters Tracey Stubbs (Linda Robson) and Sharon Theodopolopodous (Pauline Quirke) brought together when their husbands are sent to prison for armed robbery. Sharon, who lived in an Edmonton council flat, moves into Tracey’s expensive house in Chigwell, Essex. Their next-door neighbour and later friend, Dorien Green (Lesley Joseph), is a middle-aged married Jewish woman who is constantly having affairs with younger men. In the last two BBC series, the location is changed to nearby Hainault, Essex before returning to Chigwell in series 10 (the first aired on ITV).
The series ended its original BBC One run on Christmas Eve 1998 after nine years, but returned just over 15 years later, on 2 January 2014, on ITV, for its tenth series overall, running for eight episodes. The opening episode of the new series attracted almost eight million viewers, giving ITV its highest-rated comedy since Barbara in 2000. In 2015, there was an eleventh series (the second series on ITV) aired from December 2014 – January 2015. A twelfth series (the third on ITV) aired in 2016. A Christmas special was filmed in Malta, and aired on Christmas Eve 2016. Another Christmas special aired on 18 December 2017. A thirteenth series (the fourth on ITV) has been commissioned but it is uncertain when or if this will happen. Confusion occurred in February 2019 when Nigel Lythgoeseemed to suggest the series had ended. However an ITV representative later confirmed this story was false and both Birds of A Feather and Bad Move had not been ‘axed’.
The title comes from the idiom “birds of a feather flock together”, meaning that people having similar characters, backgrounds, interests, or beliefs will congregate.
For Cockney sisters Sharon Theodopolopodous and Tracey Stubbs, life is never the same again when their husbands are convicted of armed robbery and sent to prison. Sharon, a common, fun-loving, large and loud-mouthed character from a council flat in Edmonton, moves into her sister’s luxury home in Chigwell, so that she can support Tracey, after her husbands imprisonment.
Sharon has always felt inadequate next to her slimmer, elder sister Tracey and felt she had the tougher childhood. Her marriage to Chris, a waster of Greek Cypriot descent, was miserable and childless, supposedly due to Sharon’s infertility. Chris’s family condemn her for this but Sharon discovers that Chris is actually the infertile one. Sharon happily cheats on Chris and gives him grief when visiting. Despite this, she becomes bitterly envious whenever he has another woman and only ever makes half-hearted attempts to divorce him until the new 2014 series, in which Chris finally demands a divorce from Sharon so he can marry again. Tracey, however, loves her husband, Darryl. His legitimate business was building conservatories but he made most of his money by robbing banks. Unlike Sharon, who is more realistic about their husbands, Tracey deludes herself into believing her husband is innocent, especially in the Christmas special “The Chigwell Connection” and when Darryl is finally released in series 7, she trusts him when he asks for a cheque on the company account, which leads to Darryl defrauding her out of her business assets. He and Tracey have a son, Garth, who becomes a chef after going to boarding school and eventually marries Kimberley. This marriage does not last: in series 10, Garth has moved to Australia and started a relationship with a girl named Marcie. Tracey is the more honest and law-abiding of the two sisters, whereas Sharon is more willing to indulge in unscrupulous and often criminal activities, such as illegally subletting her council flat when she was living with Tracey, taking drugs, selling stolen merchandise, fiddling her VAT and claiming unemployment benefit while she was actually employed.
In the original series, most of the interior scenes were shot at Teddington Studios. The exterior filming location for ‘Dalentrace’ was in the Gerrards Cross area in Buckinghamshire. Streets in the North West London suburb of Pinner frequently doubled for Chigwell, the series setting. In the original series, the prison exteriors were filmed at HM Prison Maidstone.
Birds of a Feather first aired in 1989 and has so far run for 124 episodes consisting of 12 series. 103 episodes are thirty minutes in length, while one is forty minutes, four are 50 minutes, one is 60 minutes and one is 75 minutes.
Most episodes were written by Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran, Gary Lawson & John Phelps, Geoff Rowley, Sue Teddem, Peter Tilbury, Geoff Deane, Tony Millan & Mike Walling, Damon Rochefort and Sam Lawrence. Keith Lindsay & Martin Tomms, Steve Coombes & Dave Robinson, George Costigan & Julia North, John Ross, Frankie Bailey, Miles Tredinnick, Jenny Lecoat, Alun Lewis, Richard Preddy & Gary Howe and Ian Davidson & Peter Vincent & Tony Jordan all wrote one episode each.
The theme tune was Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?”. Initially the version recorded by actor William Atherton for the 1974 film The Great Gatsby was used; from the third series onwards is sung by Quirke and Robson.
During the opening theme for series 1, Quirke and Robson were seen both dressed in a white shirt and a black skirt and they walked towards to screen through several spotlights. Once they reached the screen it faded to Quirke and Robson sat back to back as they rotated. The ending theme was an extended version sung by Quirke and Robson together. And it showed Quirke and Robson walking to the screen and back, passing through the spot lights, while the credits rolled on the left of the screen.
Series 2 featured the same music as series 1 but introduced the new opening which featured pictures of characters Sharon and Tracey as they grow up.
Series 3 introduced a revised version of the song which was performed by Quirke and Robson. In the opening theme, Robson sang the first verse and Quirke sang the last; this was the opposite way round in the closing theme. It used the same video as the series 2 opening and closing theme.