Birds of a Feather's return is a ratings hit

Sitcom Birds of a Feather returned after a 16-year absence with nearly 8m viewers on ITV on Thursday night.

The unofficial overnight figures mean that the sitcom – which switched from the BBC to ITV for the new series – is ITV’s biggest sitcom launch in more than a decade, according to Broadcast magazine.

The comedy, which reunites Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph, had an average of 7.8 million viewers, a 31.9 per cent share, between 8.30pm and 9pm on Thursday.

The Media Guardian says it's ITV's best-performing sitcom since Barbara in 2000.

Its audience matched the 7.8 million who watched the EastEnders special on Christmas Day, and not far off the 8.3 million who saw Matt Smith regenerate into Peter Capaldi in the Christmas Day Doctor Who.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.