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Outnumbered is a BAFTA nominated Britishmarker sitcom that has aired on BBC One since 2007. It stars Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner as a mother and father who are outnumbered by their three children. Produced by Hat Trick Productions, Outnumbered is written, directed and produced by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, although the show is also semi-improvised. Most of the improvised lines are given to the child characters, in order to make the performances more realistic.

The first series was broadcast late at night, over two weeks. A second series was broadcast one episode per week. The show received mostly positive reviews (particularly in its second series), gaining praise for its use of improvisation and for the use of a laid back, mundane setting. However some criticised the show for not being funny enough and the BBC for the way the programme was scheduled, although Hamilton was fine with it saying that, "it kept us out of the ratings bunfight of prime time."

Plot

Outnumbered is about the Brockman family of South Londonmarker, whose two parents are "outnumbered" by their three somewhat unruly children. The father, Pete, (Hugh Dennis) works at an inner city school as a history teacher, and the mother, Sue, (Claire Skinner) is a part-time PA. The three children are twelve-year-old Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey), whose life seems fraught with anxieties, from starting at his new school to the world being sucked into a black hole (anxieties which cause his father even greater ones), seven-year-old Ben (Daniel Roche) who frequently tells lies and asks to watch Little Britain, and five-year-old Karen (Ramona Marquez) who asks too many questions. Other characters who regularly appear include Sue's new age 44-year-old sister, Angela Morisson (Samantha Bond), and their father Frank (David Ryall), referred to as "Grandad", who appears to be suffering from senility. Outnumbered also uses the popular sitcom device of the unseen character in the form of Veronica, Sue's demanding boss in Series 1. In series 2, the device was used again, but in the form of Sue's new boss Tyson, who is revealed to be a conman and does a runner in the last episode of the series.

Production

Outnumbered is the first collaboration between Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin since Drop the Dead Donkey ended in 1998. It was commissioned by Lucy Lumsden, the BBC Controller Comedy Commissioning. The executive producer is Jon Rolph. Originally a 20-minute long pilot was made, which was given to Lumsden who then commissioned six episodes. The setting for the show is somewhere in South London, and the show was shot on location in Wandsworthmarker. During the second series, the family receive a final demand for council tax from "Limebridge Council", sent to the fictional address of 19 Keely Road, London, W4 2CF which is a Chiswickmarker postcode.

Outnumbered uses improvisation in order to get more believable performances from the child actors. Dennis commented: "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." Jenkin added: "You rarely get the feeling that children in sitcoms are real. They tend to be the same type of character – the smartarse who says adult things – and they are rooted to the spot, staring at the camera, because they've been told to stand in one place and say the lines. We decided to attempt to do something that hadn't been tried before, bounced some ideas around and we got very keen on this idea of involving improvisation very quickly."



Episodes

Reception

The first episode received 4.1 million viewers (25.5% of the audience share) when it began and finished with 2.8 million (19.5%) at the end, which is larger than the average 2.2 million (14%) normally attracted by television shows at its particular time slot. The audience for the second episode fell by half a million viewers, whilst still being the highest ranking show in its time slot, with 18% of the audience share. However, it maintained a constant audience throughout the first series, with the fourth episode attracting 2.7 million viewers (20% audience share).

The show's reception was mixed. The Daily Mirror found the mundane settings to be similar to the American sitcom Seinfeld, saying that "compared to the ridiculous carry-on of My Family, it's much more low-key and realistic. In fact it's so low-key, nothing actually happens, which could well be a nod to Seinfeld - the touchstone of all great sitcoms. The getting ready for school chaos is like Supernanny: The Movie only with nicer children. It's also taken a leaf out of Curb Your Enthusiasm's book with large chunks of improvisation - although the strongest language you'll find here is "ponk"."

Rod Liddle, writing in The Sunday Times, also praised the show, although he was somewhat surprised, saying, "An exquisitely middle-class, middle-aged domestic situation comedy set in South London – and starring one of those bloody stand-up comics who now festoons every network, it really should be hated before it is even seen. Start liking this sort of programme and you are an ace away from enjoying Terry and June and having a house that smells faintly of weak tea, Murray Mints and urine. So, maybe it's just me, but Outnumbered is very funny indeed: despite its current bout of self-flagellation, the BBC still knows how to make people laugh. Comedy may be the very last thing the corporation does well."

James Walton wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the domestic setting and more mundane storylines were a virtue, saying, "All of this feels both carefully observed and suspiciously heartfelt. More unusually, it’s not contrived. Outnumbered sticks firmly with the mundane, yet manages to be funny about it. It doesn’t avoid the sheer dullness involved in family life either – but, happily, depicts it with a winning mixture of exasperation and affection." He did, however, criticise the scheduling of the programme saying, "Despite the very specific London setting, the series (shown in two batches of three, this week and next) will surely appeal to the parents of young children everywhere. As long, that is, as they're not asleep by 10.35pm."

Criticism of the show came from Kevin Maher of The Times who attacked the quality of the programme, saying it is not funny or dramatic enough. He wrote, "Outnumbered was at its most meretricious. For every exchange between adult and child was hijacked by a crass sitcommy need for sotto voce punchlines and knowing winks to the wings. A protracted scene in which 45-year-old dad (Hugh Dennis) was unable to wrestle a live power drill from the hands of 7-year-old son Ben (Daniel Roche), and instead had to, ho-ho, pay him £5 for the privilege, was emblematic of the show’s dubious capacity for fake pay-offs."

Outnumbered was nominated for the 2008 "Broadcast Award" for "Best Comedy Programme", but lost the award to The Thick of It. Outnumbered was given the "Annual Choice Award" from the British Sitcom Guide website in 2007. When the site updated the following year to the British Comedy Guide, Outnumbered was voted as the "Best Returning British TV Sitcom" of 2008, beating Peep Show by six votes. In 2009, Outnumbered won the Royal Television Society Award for "Scripted Comedy". It also won two Broadcasting Press Guild Awards in the same year: "Best comedy/entertainment" and the "Writer's award".

DVD releases

The first two series of the show is available to buy on DVD. It has been published by 2Entertain.

DVD Title Discs Year No. of Ep. DVD release Notes
Region 2
Complete Series 1 1 2007 6 17 November 2008 Includes interviews with the cast and writers
Complete Series 2 2 2008 7 16 November 2009 Includes the Comic Relief special, out-takes and deleted scenes
Christmas special 1 2009 1 11 January 2010
Complete Series 1 & 2 3 2007 & 2008 13 16 November 2009 Same as individual releases


U.S. version

Fox has announced plans to make an American version of Outnumbered. Larry Levin will act as both writer and executive producer. Bryan Gordon will be the director. A pilot has been made and further scripts are being written. In early 2009, it was announced that the pilot will be broadcast.

References



External links




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