Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Outnumbered and the art of writing sitcoms

Remember back in 2003, when I was running around telling everyone I met, "there's this new show called Arrested Development and it's the greatest thing ever." (Truth be told, almost 8 years after watching it for the first time, I still talk about it relentlessly.)  I submit for your approval a show from BBC1 called, "Outnumbered." I will champion as loudly and obnoxiously for this show as I did for Arrested, because it is hilarious and so well written and acted.

I have grown pretty tired of the classic sitcom formula of "setup setup [sarcastic jab]/punchline" which is utilized by so many comedy shows. I love shows like Arrested, Modern Family, and now Outnumbered because they are restructuring the sitcom. But the latter is different from both of the former because it is written so subtly. Modern and Arrested are very obviously (and skillfully) written. Anytime I can say the phrase "hijinks ensue" I feel like it is pretty contrived - I'm talking to you Mitch and Claire stuck in your old backyard treehouse. If I were a writer on either of these shows, I would show off too. (I really am not trying to take anything away from either of these exceptional television shows. I love them.) But Outnumbered has such a realistic portrayal of children, and such an obvious understanding of speech patterns that the dialog is expertly written. I think it is the greatest thing I've seen in quite some time. The writing and the acting combine to make it amazingly realistic.

The premise is two parents, Pete and Sue,  hardworking and good people doing the best they can, have three precocious albeit unruly children: Jake, Ben and Karen. I could never choose favorites between Ben and Karen, because they are both amazingly funny, and the best child actors I have ever seen. (If Jodie Foster had been younger in Taxi Driver, then maybe we could talk about her. But Olsen Twins, Jonathan from Who's the Boss, or that Raven Symone someone, puh-lease.) But here are two clips with Karen, a few episodes apart, as she discusses her religion.

And here's a scene when Pete and Sue decide to have a Sunday free of television and full of family bonding time.

It's not available on region 1 dvd, so don't think it is the Outnumbered that is on Netflix, but it is worth scouting out if you can. My PBS station is airing it right now, and if you want to come over to my house to watch some episodes off of the DVR, please feel free. But the sad news is, Fox is planning on adapting it on this side of the pond, and we all know how well that works out. (Office, you jumped the shark years ago, please, let it die. You're past the days when Richie was the only cast member missing, now it's like the super terrible spin off Joanie Loves Chachi.Seriously, how did you think that show would work?)

1 comment:

Melinda said...

John and I just watched all the clips you posted. You have us convinced. John is going to try and download episodes through torrents. Thanks for sharing!