Outnumbered - Series 4 Preview

Sitcoms about families come along regularly on UK TV, and all too often they are rubbish, centred around a bewildered stand-up comic playing a parent. And even the ones that start out with promise turn bad as the BBC refuse to let them die. (Yes, I mean My Family.)

So it was a pleasant surprise when Outnumbered turned up in 2007, from writers Guy Jenkins and Andy Hamilton, and was really good. Somehow, they nailed the balance on both sides: the parents were poised between child abuse and angelic perfection, whilst the kids neither spoke like miniature adults nor acted like cartoon hellspawn.


And this quality hasn’t gone un-noticed: the series was recognised, renewed and now returns for a fourth series, starting today on BBC1. As many have noted when writing about it, the kids are shooting up, and Outnumbered’s days might be, well, numbered. But it’s either or that or keep bringing in new young actors on flimsy explanations and turning the premise from domestic normality to unsettling boarding house, and I know which option I’d prefer. (Yes, I mean My Family.)

The good news is, even if this ends up being one of the last times they come back, the new episodes of Outnumbered are up to their usual standards. The adults have their hypocrisy exposed, the kids see the truth about everything and Karen makes little girls seem worse than black plague. Look out, in particular, for a long-overdue scene in which she meets a charity street fundraiser.

So, they’re back, it’s still cringingly funny, and in a strange twist of fate, the first episode of series four is being broadcast on the same night as a the finale of another family sitcom that has outstayed its welcome a little. (You might be able to guess which one I mean.) Check it out, and if you haven’t seen the other three series, there are always DVDs. They were very good.

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