One to watch: Outnumbered - BBC One, 9pm

Outnumbered is entering its fifth and last series
Outnumbered is entering its fifth and last series
Share this article

Don’t kids grow up fast these days?

It only seems like five minutes since Outnumbered first introduced us to pint-sized surrealists Jake, Ben and Karen (aka child actors Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez) who impressed viewers - and the British Comedy Awards judging panel - with their hilariously natural semi-improvised dialogue.

So as the sitcom returns for a fifth series, try to bear in mind that it actually started in 2007 - it might lessen the shock of discovering that Jake is now old enough to drive, Ben is taller than his dad, and even little Karen is starting senior school.

Of course, now the kids are older they are less likely to go off on strange tangents about nits or their nightmares, let alone act out versions of Britain’s Got Talent with their soft toys.

Add in the fact that the creators, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, have confirmed that this will be the last-ever series may leave some viewers wondering whether the show has hit that awkward age and is in danger of becoming just another family sitcom.

However, Hugh Dennis, who plays long-suffering dad Pete, reassures viewers that Outnumbered will still have that natural, improvised feel that made it such a hit.

“Filming the series is always a very, very happy experience and for someone like me who, as a stand-up comedian is used to improvising, it is perfect.

“Andy and Guy are incredibly clever, which makes you feel very confident. We are sitting there with the cameras ready to roll, and Andy and Guy are over in the corner whispering to the children and you wonder what on earth they are up to - which means your reaction is completely spontaneous.”

And of course, having a houseful of teenagers brings its own challenges, which Pete and Sue (Claire Skinner) don’t always rise to.

Hugh says: “The mum and dad do the classic thing that parents do - they try to present a united front, but in the heat of the moment, they find themselves going off on their own and then requiring the other one to support them, however ludicrous it might be.

“But what makes it really interesting is that there isn’t any obvious strain in their relationship. They’re clearly very happy as a couple. They might both be making terrible errors, but as neither of them are very judgmental, they’re not blaming each other.

“They’re in it together, but they’re both a bit rubbish - as are most parents in real life, which makes Outnumbered very realistic.”

Pete and Sue certainly find their parenting skills being put to the test in this opening episode, as the newly brunette Karen is having trouble adjusting to her new school - and her mum’s attempts to help just look set to make things worse.

The good news though is that Ben doesn’t seem to have outgrown his blithe self-confidence, as he refuses to let the fact that he can’t sing discourage him from auditioning for the lead role in a musical version of Spartacus.