BBC1 half-hour sitcom, which aired its first season over two weeks in 2007, and its second over seven weeks in 2008. It got a Comic Relief special and a Christmas special in 2009, followed by a third series (plus Sport Relief special) in 2010 and a fourth (plus Christmas special) in 2011. A stand-alone Christmas special aired on Christmas Eve 2012 and the fifth and final series aired in 2014.It follows the Brockmans, a family of five, who live somewhere in West London (ages are of as the final season):
Pete (Hugh Dennis) - father, a teacher.
Sue (Claire Skinner) - mother, part time PA.
Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) - 17 year old, going through a "self-righteous" stage.
Ben (Daniel Roche) - younger son at 13, pathological liar with a new-found interest in psychology.
Karen (Ramona Marquez) - disturbingly inquisitive 11 year old, who has trouble making friends due to her superiority complex.
(The series progresses in real time, meaning the characters age as their actors do)The show is semi-improvised, with the kids being given the basic outline and then going from there. Not to be confused with the Super Solvers game of the same name.
This show contains examples of:
Actor Allusion: In Series 4, there's a scene where Pete is flicking through TV channels and is disappointed at finding nothing but panel games. There are also references to Frankie Boyle and his stand-up act. Hugh Dennis worked with Boyle on the panel gameshow Mock the Week for several years.
Headmistress: You know, Karen, I once knew a little girl like you. A long, long time ago. She was clever, she had lots of opinions, which she loved to share, she thought she was the center of the universe and she didn't think the rules should apply to her. And do you know what happened to that strong-willed little girl?
Karen: Did she become head teacher?
Headmistress: No, she got expelled. She's in prison now. Turns out the rules did apply to her after all.
Annoying Younger Sibling: Both Ben and Karen are this to Jake. Though you can't really blame him when they start discussing how to get him a girlfriend. Ben more so then Karen, however.
Beware the Nice Ones: Archie the Dog does seem rather playful when the family look after him on behalf of some friends of theirs, if a bit reluctant to go to his bed. Then Sue and Pete let him out the back garden; he goes into a garden next door and breaks into a guinea pig hutch, killing all the guinea pigs. Thankfully, this is offscreen.
Cain and Abel: A female and (usually) relatively non-violent version with Angela as Cain and Sue as Abel. This turns fairly brutal in the last episode of the last season under the stress of their father's probably-terminal illness; even Pete begins to look worried by the harshness of the exchanges.
The Cameo: Blink and you might miss Harry Shearer on the other end of a video conference from Sue's office in season 5.
Jake: I can see why they call it the Dangerous Book for Boys, Karen's just brained Ben with it.
In the parent's evening episode:
Pete: Oh, what do you know? A policeman. Cos you really need one here. Ready to kettle the threat to public order that is a parents' evening.
Sue:(hopeful) We could report Ben's mugging.
Pete:(hopeful) Yeah, OK. (looks closer, becomes despondent) Oh no, he's one of those toy policemen, well he'll only give us a leaflet. note An apparent reference to Police Community Support Officers, unpaid volunteer police staff in the UK pften mocked as 'plastic policemen' for their supposed inability to contribute in the heat of the moment.
Happens to Jake several times after he starts noticing women in series 3.
Pete's goddaughter, Stacey has a similar effect on Ben in series 5.
Due to the Dead: In "The Dead Mouse", Karen asks for the body of a mouse that was killed by her parents, saying that she wants to give it "a proper funeral" because "it needs closure". She buries the mouse in the garden and makes a speech:
Karen: Dust to dust, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, may the force be with you, because you're worth it. Amen and out.
Pete throws the Wiimote into the TV by accident and breaks it, after managing to get first place on Mario and Sonic at the Olympics for the first time (which he only did because the others were all in bed).
Earlier in that episode, Pete is shown doing very badly at the game, and Ben lampshades this word for word.
In series 4 when the Brockmans attend the funeral of an uncle.
Ben mentions the funeral when talking about acting as a comedian for the school talent contest, saying he farted in the church and caused a lot of people to laugh due to the echo. We don't see this on-screen, though.
The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Sue's difficult relationship with Angela approaches outright non-comedy warfare by the last series (and involved occasional minor physical violence in earlier episodes). Angela is "the beautiful sister", being an extrovert, often vacuous globe-trotter with a string of strange and often younger boyfriends; Sue is "the smart sister" in this pairing, despite being quite socially functional — she is, if not actually much more intelligent than Angela, then much more grounded and sensible.
A male version with Ben and Jake. At the beginning of the series, Ben is the 'attractive' one, who is outgoing, rebellious and just wants to have fun, while Jake is the 'smart' one, being dorky and always worrying about something. Interestingly as the series continues they effectively switch positions, with Jake losing his geeky aspects (or at least hiding them) and becoming more popular, while Ben turns out to be extremely bright, loves playing chess, doing science experiments and plays Spartacus in the school musical. Also see Hourglass Plot.
Hourglass Plot: Jake and Ben have shades of this. At the beginning of the series, Jake is the serious, geeky older brother who is much closer to his parents, while Ben is the loud, thoughtless tearaway. As the series continues, Jake becomes a lot 'cooler' and distances himself from his family, while Ben embraces his geekier side and is a lot more affectionate.
I Am Spartacus: Parodied in series 5, when Ben gets the role of Spartacus in a school musical:
Sue: So, you got a part?
Sue: Right, which one?
Ben: I'm Spartacus.
Pete: No, I'm Spartacus!
Jake: I'm Spartacus!
Ben: I'm going to hear that joke a lot, aren't I?
Innocent Inaccurate: In "The Wedding", Karen overhears her parents saying that one of the bride's ex-boyfriends is "a guest of Her Majesty" (a British slang term for a prisoner). She asks the bride whether he's at the Buckingham Palace.
Karen's friend Alexa recalling an argument between her parents "I heard the F word, the S word, the K word...". Pete notes that 'the K word' is "probably a spelling thing"
Karen thinks her friend Steph's mum is a lesbian. In fact she's Lebanese.
Jail Bait: Jake is briefly nicknamed this in Series 4, as he's dating a 19-year old lap dancer. Turns out he was lying about his age (she thought he was 17, he's actually 15). Then it turns out she was too (she's 16). So he's not jailbait, but his girlfriend is lap dancing illegally. Pete and Sue are at a loss as to whether this is better or worse.
Angela, Sue's sister. Has insulted the kids frequently and triggered many arguments. Also abandoned Grandad with pretty much no notice or regard for him.
Brick is retroactively revealed to be one in the fifth episode of season four.
On a slightly less serious note, the headmaster of the school Pete used to teach at. Blames Pete for doctoring a prospectus to make the school look better and lets him take the fall for it (though to be fair he did doctor it but under the headmaster's orders).
Karma Houdini: Don't expect the kids to be held accountable for their actions.
Kick the Dog: When Angela abandons her (and Sue's) father to return to America with virtually no notice. Or whenever she insults the kids.
Mama Bear: Do not insult Sue's kids, as Angela finds out.
Mistaken for Pedophile: Not so much mistaken for, but it's insinuated that Pete could be a paedophile when a parent complains about him filming Karen's swimming race. He doesn't take it lightly.
Mood Whiplash: A few of the scenes about Granddad's dementia in the second series lead to this when they instantly cut back to the kids.
Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Ben. While his class is away on a trip, he causes a panic attack, makes his form tutor start smoking in an attempt to calm down, and leaves the rest of his group sleepless. That's just one episode.
In the earlier stories, Karen also drew pictures which qualify. For example: a cow...which has escaped captivity because it didn't want to be eaten, and is now murdering all the burger-eaters...
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. The characters have aged appropriately (Jake is now 16, and a archetypical teenager, Ben is now 12, and Karen is now 9). Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin both joked it had happened in an interview stating that everything was true.
The closest examples would probably be Pete and Jake, but they still both have their moments.
Papa Wolf: Pete meets the annoying anti-speedbump campaigner, after Karen gets hit by a car (don't worry, she's fine). Verbal asskicking ensues.
Pet the Dog: While Ben is not exactly a dog kicker and more a crazy child, he is actually very respectful of Uncle Bob, and is very nice when talking about him during the first episode of series 4. He also stops using the word "gay" as an insult after learning Uncle Bob and Uncle Bernard were a gay couple.
Precision F-Strike: Karen does one when she sees Angela in the house and walks off muttering "Oh, Jesus". Not the strongest example of the trope, but from a nine year old girl it's not a bad example.
Previously On: A surprisingly dramatic version opens the final episode of series 4.
Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Wonderfully subverted because Karen and Ben talk just like children of their age would. Much of the children's dialogue (and thus the reaction dialogue of the adults) is improvised.
Refuge in Audacity: It's only because Ben is saying it that you can get away with comparing an MTV stupid stunt show to the Battle of the Somme.