Outnumbered (UK TV series)
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The title card from the first episode.
|Developed by||Hat Trick Productions|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||35 (+ 5 shorts) (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||West London|
40 minutes (specials)
Hat Trick Productions|
BBC One HD
28 August 2007 – 5 March 2014
27 December 2009 – present
Outnumbered is a British sitcom starring Hugh Dennis as a father and Claire Skinner as a mother who are outnumbered by their three children (played by Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez). There were five series, which aired on BBC One during 2007–2014.
Produced by Hat Trick Productions, Outnumbered was written, directed and produced by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, although parts of the show are semi-improvised. The adult actors learn the scripts, while the children are given last-minute instructions by the writers instead.
The programme has received critical acclaim for its semi-improvisational scripting and realistic portrayal of children and family life. Ratings have been average for its time slot, but the series has won a number of awards from the Comedy.co.uk awards, the Royal Television Society, the British Comedy Awards and the Broadcasting Press Guild. The first four series and the two Christmas Specials have been released on DVD. Plans for an American adaptation were announced in February 2009, but as of September 2016[update] this has not materialised. The original series began airing in the US on BBC America on 30 July 2011, as well as airing on PBS stations.
Other regular actors and actresses have reprised roles as supporting characters throughout the five series. Samantha Bond has appeared in all series as Auntie Angela, Sue's sister. David Ryall has appeared as Grandad, Sue and Angela's father in series 1 and 2 as well as the Christmas Specials in 2009 and 2011. Rosalind Ayres has appeared as Gran, Pete's mother in series 3, series 4 and the Christmas Special in 2012. Hattie Morahan has appeared in series 1 and 2, as well as the Christmas Specials as Jane.
In November 2016, Drew-Honey confirmed that the show would return for a Christmas special. It aired on 26 December 2016. In September 2017, Dennis confirmed that more specials will be coming after the success of the 2016 Christmas special.
Outnumbered is centred on the Brockmans, a middle-class family living in West London, whose two parents are "outnumbered" by their three somewhat unruly children. The father, Pete (Hugh Dennis), is a history teacher at an inner city school and the mother, Sue (Claire Skinner), is a part-time personal assistant and is four years younger than Pete. The three children are: Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey), the straight man of the family, whose teenage sarcasm and obsession with girls worries his mother, Ben (Daniel Roche), who is hyperactive, a pathological liar, does unusual things, and is always coming up with hypothetical questions like "who would win in a fight between...", and Karen (Ramona Marquez), who asks too many questions, frequently imitates a lot of what she sees on television and criticises nearly everything.
Other regular characters include Sue's new age sister, Angela Morrison (Samantha Bond), and their elderly father Frank (David Ryall), referred to as "Grandad", who is in the early stages of dementia. He is a silent and deceased character in the 2016 special. The writers also use the popular sitcom device of the unseen character in the form of Veronica, Sue's demanding boss in series one. In series two, the device is used again, but in the form of Sue's new boss Tyson, who is revealed to be a conman who absconds in the final episode of the series. Series three introduces Rosalind Ayres as Pete's mum Sandra, referred to as "Gran", who is addicted to online gambling and has a growing hatred for Pete's father.
Other new characters in Series 3 include Kelly (Anna Skellern), on whom Jake has a crush, Angela's new husband Brick (Douglas Hodge), who is an American therapist, and his daughter Taylor Jean, who wants to live with her mum. Also introduced is a campaigner against council plans to place speed bumps on the road (Alex MacQueen) who pesters the family.
By series 5, the Brockman children have changed considerably. Jake has developed a penchant for engaging with a suspect crowd of friends, and a general teenage cockiness. Ben has doubled in size and strength, but not his maturity. And the pre-teen Karen has become moody, sullen and developed a superiority complex.
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Outnumbered was the first collaboration between Hamilton and Jenkin since Drop the Dead Donkey ended in 1998. It was commissioned by BBC controller Lucy Lumsden. The executive producer is Jon Rolph. The 20-minute pilot was given to Lumsden, who then commissioned six episodes. The show is set in Chiswick, West London, and shot on location in Wandsworth. The house used for external shots is in Dempster Road. During the second series, the family receive a final demand for council tax from the fictional "Limebridge Council", sent to the fictional address of 19 Keely Road, London, W4 2CF.
The writers use improvisation in order to achieve convincing 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.
The fourth series began on 2 September 2011 at 9.00 pm on BBC One. After the series had aired, Tyger Drew-Honey suggested that there would be no fifth series because he and the other child actors were growing out of their roles. BBC Television's Head of Communications, Sam Hodges, reassured fans of the series that "contrary to reports, talks are already under way regarding a new series".
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Average UK viewers|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||28 August 2007||5 September 2007||2.46|
|2||7||15 November 2008||27 December 2008||4.39|
|Special||27 December 2009||5.98|
|3||6||8 April 2010||20 May 2010||6.34|
|4||6||2 September 2011||7 October 2011||5.32|
|Special||24 December 2011||8.47|
|Special||24 December 2012||9.39|
|5||6||29 January 2014||5 March 2014||6.08|
|Special||26 December 2016||7.03|
Ages of children
|1||Year 7, 11||Year 3, 7||Year 1, 5|
|2||Year 8, 12||Year 4, 8||Year 2, 6|
|3||Year 9, 13||Year 5, 9||Year 3, 7|
|4||Year 11, 15||Year 7, 11||Year 5, 9|
|5||Year 13, 17||Year 9, 13||Year 7, 11|
|Official share||BBC One Weekly Ranking|
|1||28 August 2007||2.72||18.8%||N/A|
|2||29 August 2007||2.34||17.6%||N/A|
|3||30 August 2007||2.37||15.8%||N/A|
|4||3 September 2007||2.39||17.5%||N/A|
|5||4 September 2007||2.58||19.2%||N/A|
|6||5 September 2007||2.37||19.6%||N/A|
|Official share||BBC One Weekly Ranking|
|1||15 November 2008||3.83||16.2%||N/A|
|2||22 November 2008||3.63||14.6%||N/A|
|3||29 November 2008||3.48||13.6%||N/A|
|4||6 December 2008||4.23||17.7%||N/A|
|5||13 December 2008||3.88||14.5%||N/A|
|6||20 December 2008||6.87||32.0%||10|
|7||27 December 2008||4.86||21.4%||N/A|
|Official share||Weekly Rank||iPlayer viewings|
|1||8 April 2010||6.70||24.8%||6||908,000|
|2||15 April 2010||5.82||20.8%||9||786,000|
|3||22 April 2010||6.37||23.7%||9||652,000|
|4||6 May 2010||5.90||22.6%||10||832,000|
|5||13 May 2010||6.75||26.6%||9||687,000|
|6||20 May 2010||6.51||26.2%||9||641,000|
|Overnight share||Weekly Rank||iPlayer viewings|
|1||2 September 2011||6.11||23.8%||9||1,039,000|
|2||9 September 2011||5.37||19.5%||14||806,000|
|3||16 September 2011||5.45||21.5%||11||686,000|
|4||23 September 2011||5.21||19.9%||10||622,000|
|5||29 September 2011||5.02||18.4%||16||N/A|
|6||7 October 2011||4.78||17.2%||17||N/A|
|Overnight share||Weekly Rank||iPlayer viewings|
|1||29 January 2014||6.80||18.9%||11||1,398,000|
|2||5 February 2014||6.03||20.6%||12||1,885,000|
|3||12 February 2014||6.00||17.2%||14||1,779,000|
|4||19 February 2014||5.46||15.9%||12||1,659,000|
|5||26 February 2014||6.04||18.4%||13||N/A|
|6||5 March 2014||6.16||17.8%||9||1,404,000|
|Overnight share||BBC One Weekly Ranking||iPlayer viewings|
|26 December 2009||5.98||24.5%||22||N/A|
|24 December 2011||8.47||28.1%||10||572,000|
|24 December 2012||9.39||31.4%||10||897,000|
|26 December 2016||6.87||23.2%||8||1,129,000|
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 in its particular time slot. The audience for the second episode fell by half a million viewers, while 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 initially received a mixed reception, though after the second series reviews gradually shifted towards a fairly positive tone. The Daily Mirror found the mundane settings to be similar to the American sitcom Seinfeld, saying:
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".
Kevin Maher of The Times dismissed the programme, saying it was 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.
Rod Liddle, writing in The Sunday Times, praised the show, although he was somewhat surprised, saying, "An exquisitely middle-class, middle-aged domestic situation comedy set in West 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."
The show was given the "British Comedy Guide Editors' Award" in The Comedy.co.uk Awards 2007 and the "Best Returning British TV Sitcom" in The Comedy.co.uk Awards 2008, beating Peep Show by six votes.
In 2009, it won the Royal Television Society Award for "Scripted Comedy", and two Broadcasting Press Guild Awards in the same year: "Best Comedy/Entertainment" and the "Writer's Award". Outnumbered also won three awards at the 2009 British Comedy Awards: Best Sitcom, Best British Comedy and Best Female Newcomer for Ramona Marquez.
All five series and the three Christmas specials are available on DVD. The first Comic Relief special is available on the Series 2 DVD, the first Sport Relief special is available on the Series 3 DVD and the second Comic Relief special is available on the Series 4 DVD. It has been said that the second Sport Relief special will either be available on the next Christmas Special DVD or the Series 5 DVD (if they will be filmed or if they have been filmed). The DVDs have been published by 2 Entertain.
|DVD Title||No. of discs||Year||No. of episodes||DVD release dates||DVD extras|
|Region 2||Region 4|
|Complete Series 1||1||2007||6||17 November 2008||1 July 2010||Interviews with the cast and writers|
|Complete Series 2||2||2008||7||16 November 2009||2 September 2010||The Comic Relief special, out-takes and deleted scenes|
|Christmas Special 2009||1||2009||1||18 January 2010||—||—|
|Complete Series 3||1||2010||6||15 November 2010||11 February 2011||The Sport Relief special and documentary|
|Complete Series 4||1||2011||6||21 November 2011||1 March 2012||Alternative scenes, deleted scenes, Comic Relief sketch|
|Christmas Special 2011||1||2011||1||9 January 2012||—||—|
|Complete Series 1 & 2||3||2007 & 2008||13||16 November 2009||—||Same as individual releases|
|Complete Series 1–3||5||2007–2010||20||15 November 2010||5 April 2011||Same as individual releases|
|Complete Series 1–4||6||2007–2011||26||21 November 2011||3 May 2012||Same as individual releases plus 2009 Christmas special|
|Complete Series 5||2||2014||6||10 March 2014||7 May 2014||Bloopers, deleted scenes and the 2012 Christmas Special|
|Complete Series 1–5||9||2007–2014||10 March 2014||7 May 2014||Same as individual releases|
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- BBC clocks up more Outnumbered | News | C21Media
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- Top 10 Programmes - BARB
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