TV We Love: Outnumbered

There’s nothing quite as annoying as a middle class family, with their well rounded vowels, multiple cars, clarinet lessons and children called Tarquin, Cordelia and Tyger Drew-Honey.

No, that last one isn’t made up. Tyger Drew-Honey is an actual name. Tyger  (who, fascinatingly, is the son of ex-porn star Ben Dover) plays older sibling Jake in Outnumbered and does it fabulously. His dry wit and fantastic, retina detaching eye rolls are one of the things that make the semi-improvised series about family life so enjoyable to watch…despite the fact it features precocious children and annoyingly well to do parents who own luxuries like a Nintendo Wii, carpets and a house.

Come on, who are they kidding? Don’t the producers know the majority of us are reading a stolen printout of this article in the flickering light of a home made oil lamp while crouching in the ruins of our looted, burned out houses and wiping our collective bottoms on devalued bank notes (and this article)?

Of course, they had to have the credit crunch affect the Brockman family a little bit. At the start of the current series, Pete (Hugh Dennis) has lost his job as a history teacher: though more through stubbornness than the economic downturn- so Sue’s having to work full time. Oh no! What a to-do. Who will pick the children up from school, etc. etc.

Despite being touted as a comedy, Outnumbered is gently humorous rather than filled with belly laughs. The discovery of burned fish fingers under the grill; strange, tousled headed Ben painting the garden snails in luminous paint; Pete staying up til 4am to try and beat the kids at a Nintendo game; Sue laughing at a funeral: to be honest, it’d all be rather pedestrian  if it weren’t for the kids.

Yes, it”s Karen, Ben and Jake who really shine in Outnumbered, benefiting from the fascinating improvisational aspect of the show. As Hugh Dennis himself puts it:

“In most sitcoms all the lines for children are written by adults. So they are speaking the words of people 30 years older. And you really want kids to have their own voices, and say their own things.”

And they certainly do say their own things. In the case of Karen- played by Ramona Marquez- they’re deliciously bonkers things but with their own internal logic. Some glorious examples include:

“Brethrens, we are gathered here in the bosom of Jesus to say goodbye to this, to this mouse, killed before its time. We have given it cheese and bread for its journey to heaven, or at least if it goes to hell, it’ll have cheese on toast. Next up is the pope- Dust to dust, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, may the force be with you, because you’re worth it, amen and out.

Thank you Pope.”

Not to mention:

“You couldn’t kill the bad people Karen, because then you would be a bad person yourself.”
“Well…how about if you tied knives on the front of the bad people and turned the lights off. Then they would all walk into each other and then kill each other!”

If there’s any justice in the world that’ll be how the next series of Big Brother ends. I hope Richard Desmond’s taking notes.

It’s quite nice to watch Outnumbered as a childless person. As the kids are effectively being themselves, you get all the fun of listening to their rambling, entertaining stories and quirky ideas without, say, having to fish slices of cheese out of the toaster, wash their mud stained clothing or work out why your iPhone’s in the toilet.

And that, effectively, is the key to Outnumbered’s charm. They’re like the Blue Peter pets: you can get the vicarious thrill of owning a small child without having to actually clean their litter tray, or whatever.

—————————-

Series 4 of Outnumbered is currently showing on BBC 1. The next episode is on tonight at 9pm.

 

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

2 Responses to TV We Love: Outnumbered

  1. You were a bit light on Ben, who do my mind is the most out there of the lot, regularly starting from a reasonable premise and extending it in such a post-Bart-ian, ultra-violent way it does have me belly laughing. Bigger, wobblier belly, I guess.

    • Hilary Wardle says:

      Yes, sorry about that. Was going for a fairly taut, low word count piece but should have mentioned him more, the tousle headed scamp.

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