Three years after their last offering, the Brockmans are back, and it's as if they never left.
Earlier this year, a photo went viral of the three stars of the BBC sitcom Outnumbered. They were no longer the cute children we were so used to, but something else; an older, grown-up otherness of sorts, and it seemed to be that the days where they were Jake, Ben and Karen Brockman were long gone. However, the latest appearance of the Brockmans has brought back everything we loved about the initial series, and it would seem that our favourite fictional family really aren’t all that different.
The Christmas Special this year sees the Brockman family stranded in a Hampshire pub, following a car crash on their way to fulfill their Granddad’s (the late David Ryall) dying wish. With Sue (Claire Skinner) desperate to spread her father’s ashes at the spot and on the day where he met her mother, the stress is high, and as per usual, the rest of the family aren’t much help.
Sue and Pete (Hugh Dennis) haven’t changed at all since the last episodes. They’re still your ordinary, everyday parents, just trying to work out how to control their offspring, whilst their offspring seem to always be the ones in control. They wonder just how their children have grown up so fast, and we’re left wondering the same.
In many ways, the Brockman children are exactly the same, but at the same time, they are completely different. They chuck in moments to remind us this show is still just the same; such as Ben (Daniel Roche) using his evil overlord voice, and Karen (Ramona Marquez) conjuring up knowledge that nobody is quite sure how she gained. Yet at the same time, they are older now, and the script effortlessly shows this – Ben is now learning to drive, Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) has got himself a job and a girlfriend, and Karen now wears make-up and constantly uses her phone like a stereotypical television teenager.
However, it’s not just the main characters that we’re used to that make the special so great. A lot of it comes from the ever-brilliant dry humour of the show. It’s little things that make us laugh – the sarcasm that comes from all of them, Ben being the typical A-level Philosophy student and constantly asking stupid existential questions, Pete accidentally letting Jake’s secrets slip. As well as this, the political and cultural humour is so on the nose. There’s subtle, yet hilarious, references to both Brexit and Trump, as well as sneaky and cleverly slipped in questions about political correctness and ableism.
All of this makes the show’s on-off return a great bit of fun on Boxing Day. Though the ins and outs of special are great, returning to the Brockmans and seeing that Outnumbered is the same as ever is the episode’s real triumph. It’s a show about a family that’s so familiar, because they’re just like ours. They’ve captured this yet again, and even though it’s unlikely that we’ll see the Brockmans again for a while, if ever, I enjoyed every minute.
The Outnumbered Christmas Special 2016 aired on Boxing Day on BBC One. You can catch it via the BBC iPlayer.