It’s hard to believe that Outnumbered started seven years ago back in 2007 but with its fifth season currently airing, this begs the question, is Outnumbered still funny, now that the children are so much older?
If you haven’t seen the BBC’s Outnumbered, it’s one of the funniest british domestic sitcoms, starring Mock the Week’s Hugh Dennis, but his and Claire Skinner’s characters- the parents- aren’t the issue, they are for the most part the same as ever.
Family sitcoms face a huge issue after the first or second series: the ages and therefore roles of the family members start to fall out of place as the children grow up. Of course animated series like The Simpsons and Family Guy are fine and allow for a ridiculously long life (The Simpsons is currently airing its 25th season) and even voice acting isn’t too much of an issue as there are adequate mimics out there. But the kind of drama you expect to occur between parents and their four year old daughter is very different from that of a young teenage girl. The dilemma the series faces is this: either the programme ends with only a relatively short run (Life Of Riley) or they have to adapt the show’s framework a little (a great example of this is My Family, whose model embraced the changing ages of the children and added characters to compensate.)
It’s pretty safe to say that the Outnumbered writers haven’t tried to shy away from the fact that the children are that much older but instead have adapted the themes and sources of the comedy slightly. Some of the newer material includes; Karen’s self-awareness of her image and Ben’s new-found fascination with women. Don’t get me wrong though, he still chirps up with fascinating facts about death and the likes: ‘You do know why babies are cute, don’t you, Dad? It’s so biologically, we don’t kill them,’ and his incessant comments about Freud’s theories had me in stitches. In fact if anything Ben is even funnier than ever. Jake (played by the awesomely named Tyger Drew-Honey) is virtually the same, trying to sneak girls over and having a lazy attitude towards college.
So although Outnumbered’s source for laughs have changed ever so slightly, it’s still the family sitcom you know and love. Really, it’s quite incredible how after four seasons, a show that is predominantly based in the home can be so freshly amusing. But I will say this- appreciate the show while it lasts because soon the children really will be too old for the show to work. The bigger shock this season is on the eyes- not only are all three children noticeably older but most noticeably Karen has also died her hair. I’ll leave a comparison below just to illustrate the difference between seasons 1 and 5. You can catch Outnumbered as it airs or on BBC iplayer.