Series / 2.4 Children
British comedy series that ran from 1991 to 1999.
Named after the then-average number of children in a British family — today it would probably be 1.8 Children.
The main characters were:
- Bill (Wilhelmina) Porter, a caterer
- Ben Porter, her husband, a plumber
- Jenny, the daughter
- David, the son
- Rhona, a nymphomaniac Drop-In Character
- Christine, Ben's bad-tempered apprentice
The actress for Jenny was replaced
in the third season. In the final season, the character was sent to university, and a new teenage child adopted.
The episodes could be very surreal — one ended up as a parody of The Prisoner
. And Bill had numerous prophetic dreams given to her by her Spirit Advisor
, a biker.2.4 Children
is a prime example of Magic Realism
. It was written by Andrew Marshall, whose former writing partner David Renwick was responsible for the more successful One Foot in the Grave
(which was more like tragic surrealism). Both jointly created classic radio comedy The Burkiss Way
. 2.4 Children
has strong echoes of Burkiss, but is a little less surrealistic.
This show provides examples of:
- All Just a Dream - Actually happened twice - "Fortuosity" in Series 4 and "Fame" in Series 8.
- Alucard - A variant in one episode where Bill and Ben come to suspect their neighbour, Mrs Crudaal, is a vampire after realising that her name is an anagram of Dracula.
- Arc Words - Bill's recurring dream of a biker telling her to stay out of "MIA". The dream was cut short; it was supposed to say "Miami", where she was caught in a hurricane in a later episode. In fact MIA is the three-letter airport code for Miami International, and it only occurs in one or two episodes. Two points don't make an arc, although since the seasons are only six episodes long, two episodes is a sizeable chunk.
- Away in a Manger - Happens in an episode where Rona finds an abandoned baby at Christmas.
- Brand X - the video game Ninja Badger.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter - Jenny.
- Bumbling Dad
- The Casanova
- Christmas Episode - Five of them! All of which end with a bizarre Broadway-esque musical number.
- Cloudcuckoolander - All the characters were prone to this, but especially Ben, who believed that Thunderbirds was real until Christine told him the truth - when he was 36.
- Cousin Oliver - Declan, the Porters' foster child, who was also a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for the departing Jenny.
- Cut Short - By the illness of Ben's actor in 1999 (he emigrated to Australia after a cancer diagnosis and died in 2000).
- Dead All Along - It is strongly implied that Bill's mysterious motorcycle guy was this. Bill sees his obituary in a stack of old newspapers she was going to throw away. The end of the first episode of the second series shows a TV news report (which Bill misses, due to being asleep) reporting on the accident that killed him. This implies he was alive during the first series.
- Deadpan Snarker - All the characters have their moments, especially Bill and Ben.
- Dead Pet Sketch - In "The Deep", Ben has volunteered the Porters to look after Leonard and Dora Grimes' pets while they are on holiday in Switzerland without telling Bill (as they have a poor track record at looking after their pets). With the Grimeses about to board their return flight, they go next door to find a pond full of dead fish which they end up having to replace at great expense from a specialty shop in Reading. When the Grimeses return, they are surprised to see the fish looking so well - they were sure they had died days ago. The pets the Porters were actually asked to look after were Leonard's racing pigeons - which Bill has accidentally suffocated by closing their hutch.
- Death by Despair - David contracts tetanus and goes into a coma. At the hospital, he's visited by the ghost of Bill's biker friend, who says it's up to David whether to return to the world of the living. David almost chooses not to because of this trope, but ultimately decides to stay when Ben arrives at that moment and says he loves David.
- Disaster Dominoes
- Dom Com
- Drop-In Character - Rona and Christine
- Faking the Dead - In one episode, Jake dies suddenly and leaves a will demanding that Ben arrange a Star Trek-themed funeral for him. It turns out he faked the whole thing to humiliate Ben.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo - "Aunt" Pearl turns out to be Rona's real mother, discovered when Rona has to provide her birth certificate in order to have her house's tenancy transferred into her own name.
- The Friend Nobody Likes - Ben's sister Tina.
- Gender-Blender Name - Bill (full name Wilhelmina)
- Christine sometimes goes by "Chris", causing Bill and Ben to think she was a guy until they met her in person.
- Hair-Trigger Temper - Christine.
- Hidden Depths - Despite his standard characterisation, Ben is always able to provide emotional support when Bill needs it. And of the two during any genuine emergency or crisis, he actually manages to stay calmer and react better than she does.
- Impossibly Delicious Food - The addictively delicious "Drool" chocolate bars.
- Lower-Class Lout - One episode involved Bill trying to discourage David's friendship with one, until she finds out how poor the boy's family is and how his mother is struggling as a single parent.
- Magic Realism
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane
- Mood Whiplash - Frequently. The biggest example is probably the second-to-last episode of Season 4, which almost ends on the triumphant note of Jenny winning the school talent contest thanks to Ben and David helping her by dressing as The Blues Brothers and singing "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love". Then they get home and find the house has burnt down.
- Mr Seahorse - Played for Laughs in one episode where Bill buys a pregnancy test but then realises that one of the tester sticks is missing. It turns out that Ben took it, used it, and now thinks he is pregnant.
- Mrs. Robinson - possibly. One episode was centred around Bill reading David's diary and becoming convinced he was in a relationship with an older woman ... then learning the woman was his drama teacher and he was appearing in a production of The Graduate ... and then at the very end, he thanks the teacher for "everything. "No, everything".
- No Longer with Us - When David is rushed to hospital with tetanus, a doctor comes into the waiting room to tell the Porters that "we've lost him." They're devastated, but it turns out the hospital has literally lost David - due to a computer failure, they can't see which ward he's been taken to.
- Not So Above It All - Bill may be the only sane woman, but she does lose it when things get too much, plus every so often she proves she can be just as unusual as the rest of her family.
- Not What It Looks Like - One episode has Bill notice some men loading a TV into their van from the house next door, whose occupants are on holiday. She suspects the men are burglars, and she and Ben end up breaking into the house just to check that it's really empty. Then they realize that the burglars can get in easily through the now-broken window, so Bill and Ben decide to take all valuables over to their own house for safety. This doesn't look at all good when the police arrive (although Bill thinks that several plates of her sausage rolls made the explanation more believable.)
- Obstructive Bureaucrat - Dawn, the officious bank employee that Bill keeps getting stuck with.
- The Precarious Ledge - Bill and Rona become stuck on a ledge with Bill's aunt after going out there to rescue her (she threatened to jump if they called the fire brigade, since she was afraid of the authorities sending her to a retirement home.) The ledge then starts to crumble, leaving them stranded with no way to get back. Luckily, the whole building is so shoddily constructed that they are saved when Bill stumbles backwards and breaks through the paper-thin wall.
- Really Gets Around - Rona
- Runaway Bride - Rona runs out of her own wedding after seeing all her ex-boyfriends gathered in the church reminds her what she would miss out on if she got married. It's mentioned to be at least the second or third time she has done this.
- "Shut Up" Kiss - Ben tries this on Bill when she wakes up panicking on the morning of an important catering job. It doesn't work.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis - Jake the Klingon to Ben.
- Special Edition Title - for the Christmas episodes.
- Spiritual Predecessor - Considered by some to have paved the way for the similarly-themed My Family.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: the setting is what could be called The BBC Semi-Dee - the universal semi-detached house found universally all over Britain, and since the 1950's the standard set for BBC family sitcoms of the Terry And June genre. Although 2.4 Children knowingly sends up the twee and dated assumptions of the London-based sitcom about a middle-class family, living humdrum comfortable lives in nice parts of suburbia.
- Theme Naming - Appears to have been done in Bill's family since she, her mother Bette and aunt Belle all have very similar-sounding names.
- Tomboyish Name - Bill
- You Didn't Ask - After Ben gets disappointed that their "ghostbusting" equipment recorded absolutely no paranormal activity, David tells him to be patient since it can take years to work. Ben asks why David didn't mention this before, leading David to say "You didn't ask!"