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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Outnumbered, BBC1

Did we like it?
We enjoyed the deserved return of the family sitcom starring Hugh Dennis (hard to warm to) and Claire Skinner (impossible not to warm to).

What was good about it?
• Comedies in which kids say the "funniest things" are usually cute and cuddly, the three Brookman children are ferociously forthright, reducing adults to gibbering messes with their adherence to logic or flights of fancy. "Why not put beavers through the window and they'll eat the door," was best-of-the-bunch Ben's suggested solution when little Karen got locked in the lavatory.
• This episode was set at the wedding of Cousin Julie ("We going to a wedding and everyone has to be as uncomfortable as possible") but none of the usual sitcom wedding clich├ęs were trotted out (no drunken vicar, broken down car, collapsing cake, lost ring etc). Instead, writers Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton had Karen, the executive bridesmaid, filling the previously promiscuous Julie with doubts; mum Sue not having a clue who a couple were, even though the couple could remember every tiny detail of the Brookmans' lives; and a surpressed row between Sue and her carefree sister Angela (Samantha Bond) – "the attention-seekign missile".
• The Sue-Angela row plot was concluded superbly when Angela, outside for a fag and some wine slurping, gets booted up the bottom by Sue, unnoticed by the other guests in a very subtle bit of slapstick.
• Thanks to an improvisational technique employed on the show, the acting of the kids – Tyger Drew-Honey (!!!) as Jake, Daniel Roche as Ben and Ramona Marque as Karen – is wonderfully natural and comic with not a shred of stage school precociousness.
• It's not My Family.
• There's no laughter track.

What was bad about it?
• Jenkin and Hamilton sometimes let jokes drag on too long. Brattish Ben (who looks like a mini Alan Davies) quizzing the vicar started well as he asked why the Baby Jesus didn't zip King Herod or squash him with a hippopotamus or shapeshift into a Roman. But on and on went his theological bafflement went, with diminishing returns.
• We're not fans of Hugh Dennis. But lots of people are so it's tough luck to us.
• Too many middle-class stereotypes.

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