Outnumbered: Leader of the Comedy Revolution?

OUTNUMBERED – SERIES 4, EPISODE 1: Friday 2nd September, BBC1, 9pm

Having somehow managed to largely miss out on the award-winning phenomenon that is Outnumbered, I decided that it was finally time to sit down with some DVDs and see what all the fuss was about before it returned to our screens for a fourth series. Well actually, my editor did..

Combining fine actor improvisation, a smart script and some relatively innocuous storylines to paint a familiar picture of the ‘joys’ of family life, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s creation has amassed enough prizes to make Alex Ferguson go green-eyed. But with the kids another year older I wondered if it could still cut it..

Arriving on our screens in back in 2007, the programme initially received a mixed reaction before winning most critics and viewers around by the end of the first series. Many complained that ‘not much actually happens’ but its everyday charm and unexpected humour allowed the programme to stand out amongst the other BBC offerings of the time. In the ensuing years it would go on to influence them. Outnumbered certainly wasn’t the first comedy to dispense with the canned laughter, but it did signal the entry of a slightly different comedy era. Gone were the signposted punch-lines and the sitcom was a little subtler than programmes such as My Family and in came a more subversive conversational style that was rooted in reality.

In a similar fashion to the way that The Office redefined the comedy genre in the early 2000s, Outnumbered can also be seen as a trendsetter of its time, undeniably spawning the likes of recent comedy gems such as Him & Her, Grandma’s House and countless others. Yet what makes it the king of this new species is the fact that unlike most of those that followed it, Outnumbered does not divide opinion as fiercely as programmes such as Roger and Val Have Just Got In did.

As with the all the best comedies, the success of Outnumbered is largely down to the fact that us viewers can often relate to the situations presented, regardless of whether we are parents or not. Intimate scenes allow us to really feel the emotions that the parents experience and make the humour that much more personal, with punch-lines that are often surprising and sometimes verging on the surreal.

Not forgetting of course the talents of the actors, with the young stars of the show (Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez) providing some of the biggest laughs yet again with their somewhat adult-like (and often ridiculous) views on life. Watching episode one of this new series, I laughed my head off on the comments from Ben that came from nowhere on the royal family: “There’s Prince Andrew, the man who sells guns. I wonder if he’s a hit-man like his father? All royal families are mafia families!”