Friday, April 09, 2010

I hate Outnumbered

There, I've said it. And I feel better for saying it. I thought I was alone in this opinion until I read the review by Sam Wollaston in the Guardian today.

Given my belief that Western civilisation is about to collapse (quite possibly by next Tuesday), I am used to seeing Wollaston and his affected adolescent anti-intellectualism - it is known in the literature as Zoe Williams Syndrome - as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. But he is spot on when he writes:
"Twenty-nine!" yells nine-year-old Ben from the upper deck of an open-topped sightseeing bus. The middle-class Brockman family is having an educational day out, and Ben's decided he wants to play "spot the chav", shouting his tally out every time he sees a new one. 
Clearly, the correct response from his father, played by Hugh Dennis, would be to give the lad a damn good thrashing – for using a term that is sneery and offensive (as well as about five years out of date), and for mocking the less fortunate. [Though the child could grow up to be a Labour candidate.] 
Unfortunately, thrashing – in public anyway – is not in fashion as a parenting tool. Well, give him a bloody good talking to then, the hair-drier treatment. Does he? Does he hell. Mr Brockman whimpers an idle threat, so idle that a few minutes later Ben is shouting: "Thirty!" 
Ben's siblings are equally horrid. There's seven-year-old smartypants Karen, and 14-year-old bag-of-bolsh Jake. You know those parasitic wasps that develop inside the bodies of caterpillars, slowly killing them by feeding off their flesh? Well, the Brockman children remind me of those, their parents being the caterpillars of course (I know it doesn't quite work, because the caterpillars are a different species, but you know what I mean). 
The really depressing thing about Outnumbered is that I think it's pretty spot on, as a portrait of a typical middle-class London family. Some of it is even improvised: they're just being themselves, it's practically a documentary. I know lots of families like this. And these are exactly the people who are watching it, and laughing and saying: "Oh, they're just like us, isn't it funny?" Look again, though: yes, they are just like you, and isn't it appalling?
Another Guardian article, published to celebrate the return of the series, said:
According to the psychologist Dorothy Rowe, Outnumbered holds up a mirror to modern society, reflecting the position of children today. We are living in a time when children are being really listened to. "It's a marvellous change – it started to happen in the 70s as a by-product of the women's movement, and it's been happening more and more ever since," she says.
I hate to disagree with Dorothy Rowe, whom I have had dinner with and who was once very kind about an article I wrote on ADHD, but I think that the family life depicted in Outnumbered goes far beyond listening to children. As Wollaston writes:
Whatever happened to seen and not heard? Now, it's the parents who are seen and not heard. They cower in the background, servants to the monsters they've brought into the world, their own lives effectively over.
What these modern middle-class parents are saying to their children is: "You are on your own. I have nothing to teach you, no wisdom to impart. You are already much better and cleverer than I am." It is not listerning, but a total abdication of their responsibilities.

And a word about the adults' acting. I like Claire Skinner, but there is something horribly ingratiating about Hugh Dennis here as there is when he is being a comedian or appearing on a panel show. If he arches his eyebrows any further in his efforts to show he is aware of the ironies of the situation, he will do some nasty permanent damage to the vertebrae in his neck.


Unknown said...

I love the show. Laugh out loud funny.

Having a two year old who point at people in the street with beards and shouts "Pirate" and a three year old nephew who says really loudly "

Unknown said...

Oops, meant to say

I love the show. Laugh out loud funny.

Having a two year old who point at people in the street with beards and shouts "Pirate" and a three year old nephew who says really loudly "Fat man", its so near to the truth.

dreamingspire said...

I rather think that my father had the same puzzlement about his children (50+ years ago), so this isn't new. Dad certainly kept quiet and just got on with things - no, he was NOT downtrodden.

Connie said...

I think your view is absolutely ridiculous, would you like to know why? Because Outnumbered is a comedy, other comedians say outrageous things but do their mummy's thrash their bottoms? No.

I will go straight to the point that the set of out numbered is exaggerated, not many families have so many tragedies in one week but it is also hilarious because of the pure comedy that the children come up with. They are brilliant, is they were told off and sent to bed the show would not get good viewings and I would not watch it!

I hope you consider my view before being so opinionated about a seven-year-old actress who i am certain you have never met so cannot make those judgements about what she is like.

Thank you, if anyone else agrees with me do not hesitate to comment.

Anonymous said...

What a pathetic 'review' - tempted to say if this is an example of Lib Dem thought you can keep it - no sense of humour, patronising and quite malevolent - why in any context (ironic or not) , bring the beating of children into it? (and really - except to ultra PC types - whats wrong with mocking chavs? - they do after all mock everyone else!) Does the writer have children - his lack of comment makes me suspect not, as anyone who has kids could not fail to recognise so much in the scenarios played out - a lot the negative reviews I've read eslewhere are odd examples of reverse snobbery by so-called liberals in the main (the kind of people who affect to love humanity but happily describe people as appalling)with some veruy silly comments - "the children are precocious" - for goodness sake, most kids are, except for those with their heads stuck in games consoles. Btw Woolaston's coments are rubbish too - imagine espousing ridiculous Victorian values "of seen and not heard" - and "monsters" - if he wrote the same about any other group than children there would be outrage - typical Liberal who expects having had kids that he can still go on protests and behave like a teenager.

Jonathan Calder said...

So most children are precocious? That sounds like Lake Wobegone, where all the children are above average.

I remain convinced that Outnumbered is Kids Say the Cutest Things for Guardian readers.

SarahG said...

I totally agree with you and Sam Wollastan. I bloody hate Outnumbered.

It is smug, small minded middle class bullshit.

But God help us, I have actually seen families like this.

Anonymous said...

I love this show! It is hilarious and do you honestly think that if the children were told off that the show would be remotely funny?
Children are not running amok an controlling their parents, they are simply being counted as human beings and not being shunned to private nurseries away from adult guests. You clearly have some issues that you need to resolve.

Anonymous said...

Outnumbered is lower-middle class sh!t. I can imagine lots of daily mail readers think they are being 'witty' watching it.

Anonymous said...

As an expat BBC fan writing from Australia personally I loved Outnumbered. I think its outright hilarious And the kids are just brilliant.The parent roles are Obviously bit dumbed down, but thats kind of why it works.
In fact it was so good we watched a whole series at a time all 5 over a few weeks.
I also got a laugh out of reading the review. The twat wrote this sounds just as exaggerated, as a stuck up stodgy old Tory character. thanks for the chuckle.

Jonathan Calder said...

Here's hoping you stay in Australia, last Anonymous.

Oddity said...

Dude. That's the point - the parents are outnumbered and outsmarted by their pesky kids. This show is not glorifying middle class British families - it's soft satire of contemporary parenting and family life. It's Everybody Loves Raymond meets social realism.