Outnumbered S5 Ep6: The Musical

Thank you, Spartacus

This week on the final episode of Outnumbered … Tensions rise as Sue tries to persuade her sister Angela to share the cost of their sick father’s care. Pete and Jake recover Karen’s lost hamster Tommy. Despite a terrible dress rehearsal, Ben shines as Spartacus in his school musical. And each of the Brockman children show that they’re going to turn out okay after all.

Image: BBC

Image: BBC

As the curtain falls on the final season of Outnumbered, we have one final set of lessons on life, parenting and family courtesy of Pete and Sue Brockman to cut out.

1. How not to lie

It was carried off by a raven.

In reality he jumped up and down on it, but to secure a new replacement phone Pete tries to come up with an explanation that is plausible and yet no one could have made up. Fail.

2. Don’t tempt fate

I know I shouldn’t say this but I think we may have finally got to a point where they’re all, you know … okay.

Pete really should know better by now than to tempt fate like this. But for once he is proven 100% right by episode’s end.

3. When all else fails, resort to cunning and deception

Jake, you’ve got a text from Alex.

Having been wrestled out of his place on the sofa by Jake, Pete resorts to underhanded tactics to get it back again.

4. Exercise diplomacy

Probably we should just all head off to bed.

Pete attempts to pour oil on troubled waters as the tension between Sue and her sister Angela rises. I’m not sure anyone has ever attempted this technique at the United Nations though.

5. No matter how bad things may seem, always remember they could be worse

Well, that could have gone worse. She doesn’t appear to be wanted by Interpol and there hasn’t been any physical violence yet.

Pete remains a master of articulating the worst-case scenario with respect to Angela.

6. Kick in haste, repent at leisure

Honestly, you kick your sister up the arse at a wedding once and no one ever lets you forget it.

Sue regrets a past hasty action. On the bright side (see rule #5), at least no one videoed it and put it on YouTube.

7. Provide sound career advice

Well, to employers [travel is] the equivalent of Sociology at Bolton.

Pete provides Jake with a compelling counter-argument to Angela’s assertion that “travel is the best degree you can get”.

8. Don’t start a sentence you don’t know how to finish

You have a responsibility to your family because they’re … there.

Claire’s impassioned plea to Angela to share the cost of taking care of their ailing father starts well but runs out of steam.

9. Anticipate all eventualities

Eager to show their support for a wavering Ben in his lead role in Spartacus: The Musical, Claire bags prime front row seats.

Otherwise we won’t be able to see anything when [other people] all start holding their phones up in the air.

Wise. Very wise. It also means that Jake gets an unobstructed view of the stage so he can hold his phone up in the air to video the performance.

10. And finally …

The most important lesson of all:

Well, that’s the answer to our problems – just let the kids sort everything out.

If only Pete and Sue had worked that one out earlier …

And so (barring perhaps one final Christmas special) that’s the end of Outnumbered. What started out as a fresh and sharply observed semi-improvised comedy about the unpredictability of children’s reactions to ordinary life evolved over five seasons into a more traditional family sitcom that remained funny but in a more formulaic way.

As a father of three children myself – two older boys and a younger daughter, just like the Brockmans but a few years younger – watching Outnumbered has always felt like a glimpse into my future. As role models for how to cope (and, occasionally, not cope) with the rigours of bringing up children, I could do far worse.

Outnumbered season 5 reviews

5.1 The Hamster

5.2 The Swimming Competition

5.3 The Goddaughter

5.4 The Gap Year

5.5 The Chinese Horde

6 Comments on Outnumbered S5 Ep6: The Musical

  1. It was not a classic series and I think was one too many. That is not to say there weren’t some funny moments but having caught up with an early one on one of the oldie channels recently I realised how much it has gone off. It is a BBC fault to run comedy programmes too far (Allo Allo, Are you being Served? are probably the worst examples) so I do hope that they don’t spoil the Brockman legacy.

    The skill in this series was in identifying the realities of life with teenage kids (you have that to come Tim) rather than the innocence of young Karen and the “boyishness” of Ben which in particular did not translate well into a teenager.

    I am not convinced whether the saccharine finish, with everything coming out ok in the end, was worthy of the programme.

    However, I will miss Outnumbered and will still watch the occasional rerun on Dave or Gold when faced with the usual 200 channels and nothing to watch! The early series are among the television’s best moments.

    • Hi John. I think it’s a general fault of TV all over the world to run series longer than they should. Comedy-wise, aside from Fawlty Towers and the Gervais/Merchant vehicles, I’d say most sitcoms outstayed their welcome by at least a year or two. Ahem, Friends.

      I was in two minds about the finish initially, but I liked it. By convention, I think there was a need to provide a tidy ending, and the various mishaps throughout the school musical were easy to identify with. For me it was sweet rather than sickly, providing a sense of closure via a couple of well-placed lines of dialogue rather than devoting half a season to it. Ahem, Friends.

      I’ll definitely miss the series, though. I find most sitcoms distinctly unfunny – what do people see in Mrs Brown’s Boys, for instance? – but Outnumbered has always made me laugh, even though not quite as much as season 1. With BBC3 seemingly heading for the chop, I’m not at all confident the pipeline for new comedy as a whole (even though a show like Outnumbered isn’t really a BBC3 thing) is going to be particularly healthy.

  2. Fawlty Towers was the classic for leaving them wanting more! Perhaps it was a tidy ending, but does that make the Christmas Special less likely?

    I do disagree with you over Mrs Brown’s Boys though. It is the only programme that literally reduces me to hysterical tears. I like the live feel of it – some of the improv is obvious but funny nonetheless. In last night’s version Brendan O’Carroll repeating a line to reduce Rory Cowan to giggles (again) before asking him why he was so down was brilliant. Taking the phone to a cameraman was less so even if it was clear that it was a response to his mobile ringing in an incident that was edited out. The thing about Mrs Brown’s Boys is that it has a provenance of live shows and live audiences so the timing is impeccable and they value the “out takes” – the camera breaking a window was a classic! There is a genuine spontaneity in it that makes it exceptional.

    Not sure what to make about the end of BBC 3. For the emergence of Gavin and Stacey there has been a lot of rubbish on BBC 3 though I would have thought the cost was in commissioning the programmes more than in actually broadcasting them – your background will know more on that than I would! Once upon a time BBC 2 was for the more experimental programmes and I am sure that there is still plenty of scope if the planners move away from some of the safe options that they currently go for.

    • There are some good articles floating around online that break down the cost of running BBC3. As you say, a lot of it goes into actual programme production (though not as much as many people think – UK TV budgets are remarkably frugal), but a lot also goes into the infrastructure required to actually beam programming into our homes. That’s the big saving. A lot of BBC3′s output will find a home in late-night slots on BBC1 and 2 as well as its new online home.

      I was reminded that BBC2 recently changed its controller. With hindsight, the appointment of a new broom who can return BBC2 to a more experimental and less conservative brief is exactly what is needed. If BBC3 goes, it will need a revamped BBC2 to incorporate some of its spirit.

      I’d still have shut down BBC4 instead, though. I know the other public service broadcasters all have their own youth offerings, but the BBC is meant to cater for all ages and tastes. I just don’t see how that’s served by punting BBC3 into touch.

  3. PS – was the appeal of early Outnumbered that it was also unscripted and therefore spontaneous?

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