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.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Jake's reaction to Ben's story about Ibrahim getting mugged.
- Adorkable: Jake, on occasion.
- Adults Are Useless: large amounts of the show contain Pete & Sue getting everything spectacularly wrong, which also yields a large helping of Cringe Comedy.
- Affably Evil: A representative from Brick's attorneys is actually very polite and patient.
- Affectionate Nickname: Sue calls Jake "Jakey" on occasion. It's interesting to note that while Jake often responds to his Dad giving him nicknames with insulting ones, he doesn't with his Mum.
- The All Solving Hammer: Referenced when trying to fix a washing machine.
Ben: "Here's a bigger hammer!"
- Always Someone Better: The annoyingly perfect neighbour to Sue, and her equally perfect (if a bit creepy) children.
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Subverted in "The Chinese Horde", where Karen is called to the headmistress's office:
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.
- Awesome Mccoolname: Jake is played by Tyger Drew-Honey.
- Karen is played by Ramona Marquez.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The kids may fight a lot, but they do care about each other deep down.
- 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.
- Blue Oni Red Oni: Jake and Ben.
- Big "WHAT?!": Karen, when Ben reveals that Pete kissed a woman who wasn't Sue.
- Bottle Episode: The airport in Spain.
- Brutal Honesty: Karen, who won't lie even during 'Cheat'.
- 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.
- Celebrity Paradox: Of a type; in series 4, Ben uses a Frankie Boyle joke in his act for the school talent show. Hugh Dennis (Pete) and Frankie Boyle used to appear on Mock the Week together.
- Comically Missing the Point: Usually Ben or Karen.
- Creepy Child: Karen, frequently - especially when she outlines her plan to kill all the terrorists in the world, while looking completely adorable.
"Why don't they just put knives on them and put them all in a dark room, and they can walk around and then they'll all stab each other?"
- There's something a bit...off about Taylor-Jean.
: I'm so much happier.
- Cringe Comedy:
- For example, Pete's decision to start acting out "war movies" on the bridge of HMS Belfast. A Second World War cruiser.
- An example that extends to In-Universe would be Ben's attempts at ventriloquism.
- A Day in Her Apron: In "The Girl's Day Out", Sue goes out with Karen, and leaves the housework for the males in the family.
- Deadpan Snarker:
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
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- 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.
- Elephant in the Living Room: Semi-literal example in the second episode of the third series, only it's in the kitchen.
"What's that?" *indicating a paper-maché elephant head* "Oh that's the elephant in the room, we don't talk about that" "Why not?" "No, it's ... never mind"
- Embarrassing Nickname: Don't call Jake "Jakester."
- Epic Fail:
- 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.
- Escalating Punchline
- Filler: Karen's stuffed-animal Reality Show parodies that have little, if anything to do with the episode they're in.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Angela and Sue. To a lesser degree Ben and Jake, with Karen falling somewhere in the middle.
- The Fun in Funeral:
- 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.
- Freudian Slip:
- Funny Background Event: Sue kicking Angela as Pete talks to a clergyman in The Wedding episode.
- The brawl that occurs during Ben's football game, while Pete is on the phone in "The Quiet Night In".
- Gibberish of Love: Jake has a hard time talking to Kelly.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Karen has quite the collection.
- Girls Need Role Models: Sue seems to believe this In-Universe, explaining her dismay in series 4 when Karen suddenly develops an interest in shopping and fashion.
- 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.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Sue's bosses. Veronica, in series 1, was replaced by Tyson for series 2.
- Karen's friend Maisy, although her friend Alexa is seen.
- Hidden Depths: Ben is actually quite good at chess.
- 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.
- Hypocritical Humor: Frequently at the expense of Sue and Pete.
- 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.
- Innocent Swearing: Karen in "The School Run":
Karen: What's a twat? (Pete looks at her surprised) Twat.
Pete: It's not a very nice word for children to use. Where did you hear that - you've been watching Trisha or something?
Karen: No, last night when you were arguing with Mum.
- The Internet Is for Porn: Jake seems to think so, in Series 3.
- 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.
- Jerk Ass:
- 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.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Typical example:
"Daddy, you ever think we're just characters in someone's dream?"
"I want to be chased by a tiger." "I think that can be arranged" (enter Jake, played by Tyger Drew-Honey)
- Lethal Chef: Ben. It didn't help he was trying to copy Esther Rantzen.
- And settled on Heston Blumenthal, an English "molecular gastronomist".
- Literal-Minded: Ben and Karen, quite often.
- 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...
Sue: That's...lovely, darling.
(Karen leaves the room)
- Noodle Incident: A lot of off-screen incidents.
- 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.
- Only Sane Man: every character seems to think that this is them.
- 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.
- Running Gag:
- The family hurting some random poor lady in the Airport episode.
- When Angela first shows up in the two parter ending to Season 4, she gets greeted with "Oh no" from both Jake and Ben. When Karen enters she has a double take and utters the phrase "Oh, Jesus."
- Ben wanting to watch Little Britain.
- Karen wandering off while Angela is talking to her, usually in mid-sentence.
- School Uniforms are the New Black: It's hit-or-miss whether not the kids bother changing if they're just hanging around the house.
- Show Within a Show: Ben's school makes a musical about Spartacus in series 5 with him in the title role.
- Sleep Cute: The kids usually, particularly after an episode at the zoo. Only for Pete to suddenly realise Ben has smuggled a rabbit home.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Wild, outgoing Ben and quiet, snarky Jake.
- Take Our Word for It: Exactly how Ben managed to get both loads of washing into the machine at the same time is never shown.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Jake, now that he's a teenager.
- To Be Continued: series 4 episode 5
- Took a Level in Jerkass:
- Jake in season 3 goes from mild mannered to a rather moody Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as his teenage slouchiness and perversion kicks in.
- Karen becomes rather sullen and rude in series 5.
- Totally Radical: Pete to Jake.
- Two Girls to a Team: Sue and Karen.
- Verbed Title
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Used several times when Jane throws up in "The Sick Party".
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Jake.
- Karen's friend Alexa answers Pete asking whether her disorganised and scatter-brained mum Jane will be there to pick he up soon with a deadpan, "I doubt it."