Outgrowing Outnumbered: Can it carry off adolescent angst now its child stars are so big?


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The Independent Culture

The Brockman family are back with another chaotic Christmas special. But now that ‘children’ Jake, Ben and Karen have all reached double figures, will the show be as funny?

Karen, the youngest of the troublesome trio, now ten, has lost the blonde ringlets of childhood innocence and stands only a head shorter than her mother Sue (Claire Skinner). Her hilariously candid comments stole the semi-scripted show in the first series, but she now looks into the camera with a knowing eye and all the hallmarks of self-awareness.

Middle child Ben, aged 12, is at that awkward brink between childhood and teenager. He will no doubt be just as mischievous as he is left in charge of the Christmas party games, but with the gangling presence of a boy trapped in an adolescent body.

Seventeen-year-old Jake, who is legally old enough to have sex, worries his parents this Christmas by falling in with the wrong crowd. Older adolescent behaviour can be funny, but Outnumbered is no Inbetweeners. We will wait to see how the show carries off family-friendly 17-year-old antics.

The Christmas special stars a host of adult neighbours invited to the Brockman’s party, including Sanjeev Bhasker and Mark Heap. You can’t help but think the producers have got in two well-known comedians to make up for a few laughs lost elsewhere.

The show’s genius originally lay in the naïve improvised lines of the three children, aged five, seven and eleven when Outnumbered first started. Five years on, who’ll be having the last laugh?

Outnumbered - The Christmas Special, Monday 24 December, 9.35pm BBC One