Sharon (Pauline Quirke) lives in a council flat, while her sister Tracey (Linda Robson) lives in a luxurious house on a private estate. The two women lead very different lives until their husbands are sent to prison for armed robbery. Sharon moves in with Tracey to keep her company and to help pay the bills. They quickly become close friends with their neighbour Dorien (Lesley Joseph), whose chief interest in life is chasing after much younger men.
With their husbands still in prison, Sharon and Tracey turn to their man-hungry neighbour Dorien for help when their central heating breaks down.
The bills are coming in thick and fast, and in an effort to raise some cash, Tracey wonders about selling Darryl's old car. Meanwhile, Sharon becomes a saleswoman, determined to flog hundreds of bottles of ""Heaven Scent.""
The Essex sisters go green in an effort to save the rainforests, but Tracey becomes distracted and increasingly concerned about her son Garth's sexual inclinations when he brings home a handsome older boy from boarding school.
Tracey decides to experience Darryl's ordeal behind bars by creating her own prison in the attic, with Sharon as her cellmate.
Sharon and Tracey witness a friend of their husbands', Vinny Hutchins, making a speedy getaway from a post office raid in which a pensioner has been injured. While Tracey wants to turn him in, Sharon vehemently disagrees as it's against criminal ethics. After visiting Darryl and Chris, they change their minds. When Dorien is round, they see an appeal on 'Crime Busters' and Dorien recognises Vinny. Sharon and Tracey, after hearing about the reward money, decide to tell the police but Dorien rings first, and uses the money to buy a kitchen from her toyboy Luke, who has been threatened with a move to Northern England unless he sells more kitchens. Tracey, however, blackmails Dorien to give her the kitchen so Vinny's wife can sell it to fund a new life abroad.
Tracey's plan to hold a perfume-selling party hits a major snag when Sharon discovers some furry gate-crashers.
A beautiful friendship begins for Sharon when she sees off a mugger who is attacking a businessman in Chigwell railway station. A chance encounter later in the evening reveals he is, in fact, Dorien's husband's financial adviser.
Sharon isn't registered to vote in Chigwell, but when election fever hits the constituency, she wants to make use of Darryl's vote. Since Tracey insists she pay for the privilege, she sets about raising the readies.
Tracey kicks smoking with the help of weekly psychotherapy sessions, realising that her nicotine addiction was due to her husband Darryl. But can Darryl trust her with the handsome shrink Gerald?
Sharon is approaching her 30th birthday but is unable to see a bright future ahead of herâ€”merely one which matches up to her past. Tracey would like to throw a party for her, but has problems with the guest list when she realises that their successful friends with families will only remind Sharon of ""all the things she hasn't got.""
Darryl has been taken to hospital with appendicitis, and plans to escape and spend the night with his wife. Meanwhile, Sharon sees this as an opportunity to do some entertaining of her own.
Sharon fears that blood is truly thicker than water.
Sharon is faced with an impossible choice when her husband Chris tells her he is seriously ill.
Sharon and Tracey want spending money for Christmas, so start looking for extra work. Sharon is confident that the people of Chigwell will be crying out for her pet care services, while Tracey starts doing a spot of typing from home.
Inspired by Dorien taking her antique silver samovar to the Chigwell Antiques Roadshow, Sharon and Tracey decide to search through their mother's belongings for their own undiscovered treasure. Unfortunately, their search yields more than they could ever have bargained for. Perhaps Aunt Sylvie can shed some light?
Sharon is about to go on the dating show, Second Time Lucky, and wins, so she visits Chris to discuss their divorce. But when Chris asks her for her help to pay off a gang who Chris indebted to, she must choose to go to Germany for her prize in order to bring back a German car that belonged to Chris. Tracy accompanies her to Berlin, where she helps find a mechanic who can fix up the car. Trouble is, Tracy takes a shine to the mechanic. Meanwhile, Dorien is told by Sharon that she saw Marcus at the airport with another woman, so Dor moves out... right into next door.