Can Birds of a Feather survive the curse of the TV revival?

As ITV announces plans to revive the BBC sitcom, we look at which comebacks have worked - and which have not...

Should sleeping dogs be left to lie? By dogs I mean shows like The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Are You Being Served? And by lie I mean left alone in blessed memory without fear of being disinterred years later by desperate commissioners keen to pep up their schedules and ratings.

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Birds of a Feather is the latest in a long line of shows to be dusted down and brought back. Apparently, the people who own the rights to it, Freemantle Media, offered it to the BBC which only wanted a one off. So ITV stepped in and offered a full eight-part series.

Surely a long-lost programme should never be revived like this…

…should it?

Well, the omens aren’t exactly pretty…

Remember when Carlton tried to bring back Crossroads in 2001 with Jane Asher? We do, and we’d rather we didn’t.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, a character immortalised by Leonard Rossiter between 1976 and 1979, was brought back after Rossiter’s death as The Legacy of Reginald Perrin (and examined the effects of some bizarre bequests in Perrin’s will). I probably don’t need to tell you that it didn’t work, but neither did Martin Clunes’ attempt to resurrect the character with two series of Reggie Perrin in recent years.

A Telegraph critic said the most recent reboot was “hopelessly wheezy and club-footed. Part of the problem was that while the script may have been updated, everything else had large tufts of mammoth hair stuck to it: the cheap sets, the laboured direction, the glaringly unatmospheric lighting, the once-daring surrealistic touches, even the concept itself.”

So we assume she didn’t like it much.

Are You Being Served? is a classic de nos jours. But do you remember Grace and Favour, the early 1990’s sequel? No? No.

The Liver Birds resurfaced after 18 years and didn’t catch fire either. And my memories of This Life, the fabulous BBC2 drama of my early twenties are forever sullied by the pointless and dull This Life +10 that the Beeb made to mark ten years since the drama.

Still, there are some good remakes, although most of the successful reboots inhabit the far distant galaxies of science fiction.

Exceptions include the Dallas revival which began well for Channel 5 even if it isn’t to my taste. Men Behaving Badly is one of the few comedies to have been successfully brought back from the dead after ITV screened two series of a middling episode before it was rescued, massively improved by the BBC, and helped define generation nineties lad.

As for the sci-fis, well, they seem more capable than shows of other genres of successful updates, perhaps because they benefit so much from more up-to-date special effects which make them seem fresh and modern even if they perhaps aren’t. Battlestar Galactica was infinitely superior to the bubble gum cartoonery of the1970’s and Doctor Who, well….. Russell T Davies was given free reign to reimagine it for modern audiences and with a budget that extended beyond bulk buys of latex…. and didn’t he do well?

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