Nineties sitcom Birds Of A Feather is making a Christmas comeback, but one of the key cast members will be missing from the line-up.
Thirty-one years after the first episode aired on the BBC in 1989, ITV have announced the show will be back this year for an extended Christmas special.
It will star original cast members Linda Robson as Tracey and Lesley Joseph as Dorien – plus new addition Les Dennis – however Pauline Quirke will not be joining them.
To cover her absence, the broadcaster says her character, Sharon, will be “stuck on a COVID cruise” on the other side of the world.
The much-loved comedy ran on the BBC for nine years until 1998, before being revived on ITV in 2014.
It revolved around sisters Tracey and Sharon, who found themselves thrown together in a Chigwell mansion after their husbands were sent to jail for armed robbery.
Neighbour Dorien Green was the third lead in the show, providing plenty of laughs with a constant string of younger male lovers.
Robson, who announced the festive special on Loose Women, said: “I’m so happy we have a new Birds adventure.
“Trace and Dor have been at loggerheads with each other for months. Will it be a peaceful Christmas in Essex?!
“The script for this special is brilliant – I promise we’ll have lots of laughs for fans of the show.”
Joseph said: “I’m so excited to be putting Dorien’s high heels back on for a Christmas special of Birds.
“It’s been three years since viewers last saw us and Dorien’s only gone and got herself a new man!
“We all need a laugh right now and I promise this special will deliver the festive goods.”
Dorien’s new flame will be played by Dennis, who tweeted that he was “thrilled” to be joining the programme.
The show’s creators, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who have written the special, said: “We’re really excited to help bring Birds Of A Feather back to ITV’s screens to give the nation some seasonal cheer in these peculiar times.”
After nine series on the BBC, and three series and two Christmas specials on ITV, the show last aired in December 2017.
Quirke is stepping back from acting to focus on her performing arts academies, according to ITV.
Set up in 2007, The Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts has more than 200 academies across the UK providing performing arts tuition for children and young people from 4-18 years.