End of an Era: Outnumbered Finale

It may have been competing with an England match, but as ever, Outnumbered displayed the heart, pride and spirit our national team would be hard pushed to beat.  Many of us have, over the course of its seven year run, come to love the Brockman’s chaotic, hugely entertaining and immensely funny attempts at guiding their children, (and each other) through the many trials, tribulations and tantrums of everyday life.

The partly improvised, comedy-drama owes much of its success to the wonderfully natural, yet often poignant performances from its three youngest characters‘. Whilst Mum Sue, and Dad Pete, valiantly endeavour to get to the end of each day without major incident, the children, Jake, Ben and Karen have always been on hand to offer their unique, and in Ben’s case, often surreal pearls of wisdom, which their hapless parents then have to struggle through.

The pure genius of the program has always been its simplicity.  It’s how the show takes the everyday events and stresses we can all relate to, but to add the extra dimension of how they appear to a child.  The young actors have grown up dramatically over the shows’ run. Ben’s transformation since the last series was particularly striking, his appearance having changed from that of cute young boy into giant adult, now dwarfing his ‘elder’ brother, Jake, and even his Dad – played to perfection by the enduringly likable comedy genius Hugh Dennis.

Last night’s final episode did not disappoint, with a final visit from the divine Samantha Bond’s ‘Auntie Angela.’  Her visit wouldn’t have been complete without her having current boyfriend in tow, this time in the form of her very young, religious soul mate, Tommy.  This led to much confusion and amusement during the family discussion, as to the much contested whereabouts of Karen’s pet hamster, also named Tommy.  Toy boy Tommy’s appearance also produced the line of the show from Sue, fantastically portrayed by Claire Skinner.  When Angela revealed they’d met at Sunday school, she was immediately hit with the killer comeback “Was he still at Sunday school?”

It was also the unveiling of the much anticipated Spartacus: the Musical, and despite his last minute nerves that were surprisingly calmed by a talking to from sister Karen, Ben’s performance was as energetic and impressive as you’d expect.  It was also heart-warming to see Karen in this new light and showing her softer side.  Following her meeting with tough new headmistress last week, she had entered her “nice phase,” this new behavior certainly caused some bewildered faces, with Dad Pete incredulous that she’d finally met an adult she respected – since Father Christmas that is.

The show bowed out with a suitably touching final episode, with all children seeming to have found their own paths, and also, in true happy ending style, Karen’s missing hamster; with Mum and Dad appearing to finally be happy and contented with all their lives.  The show’s seen some magical moments over the years, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to think it will be sorely missed.  Maybe though, in many years to come, it can return when the kids themselves have kids…….