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Series / Cuckoo

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Cuckoo is a 2012 comedy series on The BBC, starring Andy Samberg, Greg Davies and Helen Baxendale.

It revolves around Ken and Lorna, a couple of middle-England parents who go to pick their daughter Rachel, a promising medical student with a university placement at Bristol, up from the airport upon her return from her gap-year travels only to get a bit of a shock when she reveals she has gotten married to Cuckoo, a modern young New-Age Retro Hippie type. As Rachel is busy sorting out her educational future and Cuckoo is in the process of writing a self-help book that he is convinced will put him somewhere between Jesus and Gandhi, they move back into the family home, an arrangement that works very well for them but less so for Ken. For while Cuckoo's eccentric ways manage to win over Lorna, strait-laced Ken is hardly convinced, perceiving himself as the Only Sane Man while his home is invaded by an idiot with a questionable perception of personal space.

Throw in Rachel's horny, apathetic, self-obsessed teenage brother and you've got the basic formula for Cuckoo.

Series 2 introduced two major cast changes: Tamla Kari (Rachel) was replaced by Esther Smith, and Cuckoo was written out because of Andy Samberg's other work commitments and replaced by his long lost son Dale (Taylor Lautner). It also introduced a new regular character in the form of Rachel's new boyfriend Ben (Matt Lacey); a safe and boring solicitor who works with Ken and Rachel.

The series provides examples of the following tropes;

  • Actor Swap: Actress Tamla Kari (series 1 Rachel) is replaced by Esther Smith in series 2. Cue Lampshade Hanging.
    Lorna: It's like she's been a different person since Cuckoo went missing.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Invoked by Ken, who initially believes that Cuckoo is a conman who tricks naive young women into marrying him, all the while fleecing their rich parents for money.
  • Artifact Title: Cuckoo has been dead since the first minute of the Series 2 premier. The show has been renewed for Series 4.
  • Ashes to Crashes: At Dr Rafferty's funeral, the urn gets dropped and shatters on the ground when the funeral party see Dylan getting a handjob as they go to the rose garden to spread the ashes.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the last episode of Series 2, Dale saves Rachel's life by pushing her out of the way of Steve's car which is in the middle of a high speed pursuit.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Occasionally alluded to.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Christmas special ends with Dale and the family celebrating Christmas, but Dale feels he's overstayed his welcome and secretly leaves town in his truck.
  • Bloody Hilarious: At a dinner party where Rachel and Ben try to set him up with their friend, Dale performs a friendship ritual from his cult at said friend's request. The ritual consists of touching one person and saying "Friend, take my trust", touching a second and saying "Friend, take my love", and slicing his palm open with a big knife, saying "Friend, take my blood", and rubbing his bleeding hand all over a third person's (in this case, Ben) face.
  • British Brevity
  • Brick Joke / Funny Background Event: In one of the first scenes of the Series 2 finale, Dale impresses a police officer by expertly and rapidly twirling his telescopic baton. In one of the episode's final scenes when the same police officer is talking to Ken, two officers in the background are attempting to replicate this.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ben.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Lorna is completely incapable of not telling everybody any secret. As such everybody at the surprise wedding announcement already knows.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Dale as he was raised to believe that if he lies, his testicles will fall off.
  • The Cast Show Off: In the Series 2 finale, Taylor Lautner (a blackbelt since the age of eight) gets to show off his martial arts skills.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Korean War Rifle in "Grandfather's Cat".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Do we really have to say who?
    • As well as the obvious, Lorna herself is a bit spaced out at times, although nowhere near to the degree that Cuckoo is.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Lorna's father was already this, but when Cuckoo claims that his cat may be the reincarnation of his dead wife, it gets even sillier.
  • Cringe Comedy: The show is basically setting Ken up for these one after the other.
  • Daddy's Girl: It seems that Rachel was this, before Cuckoo turns up of course.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Or in this case, marrying.
  • Dramatic Drop: The urn containing Dr Rafferty's ashes.
  • Foil: Ken and Cuckoo are polar opposites
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Episode 4 of Series 2 is made of this trope. Ken lends a very rare book that's worth £1,000 to his dying history lecturer Dr Rafferty, who wants to read it before he dies. Rafferty dies earlier than expected and Ken goes to the funeral (dragging Lorna and Dylan along) to get the book back, and Dale goes because his unexpressed grief over Cuckoo is causing him to take Rafferty's death very hard. At the funeral; Dale is mistaken for Rafferty's gay American lover, Ken steals the book out of Rafferty's niece's bag (unaware that a passage from it is to be read at the funeral) and swaps it for "A History Of Genocide", and Dylan gets off with Rafferty's great-niece Chastity. It all culminates with Dale publicly reading a passage about genocide in the Khmer Rouge as part of the service, Ken and Rafferty's niece having an angry back and forth about the ownership of the book during a part of the service where mourners are invited to share their memories of the deceased, the reveal that Dale isn't Rafferty's lover, and the entire funeral party going to Rafferty's rose garden to spread his ashes only to see Dylan getting a handjob from Chastity. Cue a Dramatic Drop of the urn.
  • Happily Married: Ken and Lorna have been married for around twenty years, are still very much in love, and serious rows are incredibly rare.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Ken and Lorna. Although Helen Baxendale isn't exactly short (5'6"), Greg Davies is 6'8".
    • To a lesser extent, Dylan and Zoe also count. Tyger Drew-Honey isn't overly tall (5'10") but Holly Earl is very petite at 5'0" and frequently plays characters much younger than her actual age.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Ken is definitely not very welcoming, friendly or pleasant to Cuckoo, but given that Cuckoo, while essentially well-meaning, nevertheless quite easily comes off as both an annoying sanctimonious idiot with questionable ideas that he himself barely seems to understand yet will not hesitate to smugly lecture others about at the drop of a pin, and as a sponger with little concept of personal space or appropriate conduct in someone else's home while being quite happy to leech off that someone else's generosity indefinitely, Ken's resentment is fairly easy to understand.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Cuckoo claims to have it all figured out, yet his plans to spread his wisdom amount to selling jacket potatoes and assuming his preaching won't alienate customers. His attempts at securing a loan also show that he's hopeless with business management.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In an attempt at being more spontaneous, Rachel and Ben have sex in the stationary cupboard at work. They manage to get away with it until Ken gets the CCTV footage to expose that a rival for the Senior Partner position at the firm is stealing stationary and e-mails it to his boss without looking through it first.
    • At Dr Rafferty's funeral, Dylan gets a handjob in the rose garden during the ceremony. And then the funeral party comes over to spread the ashes. Cue the urn being dropped out of shock.
  • Meaningful Name: Cuckoo has basically invaded Ken's 'nest' and set up home there. He also spends most of his life with his head in the cloud.
    • Initially played straight with Chastity, a girl Dylan meets at a funeral. She claims to have been raised in the church since birth but a short while (and some dubious logic from Dylan) later, she is snogging him and ultimately gives him a handjob. While the service is going on. Though thankfully a short distance away from it.
  • Mistaken for Masturbating: Happens to Dylan in series 1 and series 2.
    Lorna: Sorry love were you, er (beat) fiddling?
    Dylan: Mum I've told you I don't wank, I have never wanked.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Ken after inviting a young girl over to a party, and then later having discovered to have close ups of the girl swimming on his camera is caught up in one of these. It was of course Dylan who wanted the girl to come to the party and who took the photos.
  • Mushroom Samba: Lorna is pulled over and has marijuana in her pocket. She hands it to Ken (which the police officer notices) and he eats it to avoid being arrested. A short while afterwards, he has to defend Steve against (entirely justified) accusations of medical malpractice.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Dale prepares for what his cult believe is the apocalypse by giving each of the family a loving and respectful farewell. Except for Dylan. He tells him that he's insubordinate and needs to treat Ken with more respect before slapping him in the face.
  • No Party Given: Averted with the fifth series, where Ken becomes the Liberal Democrat candidate for a parliamentary by-election, with the party logo and other media prominently displayed.
  • Potty Failure: Happens spectacularly to Dylan after eating a jacket potato topped with a sauce containing fish that had been in the garage for two years. Made even worse by the fact that it happens when he and Zoe are in the bath and about to have sex.
  • Odd Couple: Not a couple per se, but much of the comedy is driven by the personality clash between head-in-the-clouds idealist hippy Cuckoo and cynically down-to-earth everyman Ken.
  • Only Sane Man: What Ken believes he is at any rate.
  • Out of Focus: Ken in the second episode of Series 2 where he only appears at the start and end of the episode. Justified as the storyline of Dylan throwing a party requires him (as the sterner parent when compared to Lorna) to be away from the house.
    • Dylan in the third episode of Series 2. He shows up for two lines and one joke that has nothing to with either of the episode's plots, and has less than twenty seconds of screentime.
    • Rachel in episode four of Series 2. Because she doesn't go to Dr Rafferty's funeral, she is absent from most of the episode.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After Dylan walks in and cheerfully admits that he lost his virginity to a prostitute at Cuckoo's stag do, Lorna immediately assumes he's lying.
    • This carries over into Series 2 when everybody thinks that he is still a virgin, and always respond to his protests with "Nobody believes that story".

  • The Remake: NBC has ordered a remake of the show, starring Michael Chiklis and Cheryl Hines in Greg Davies and Helen Baxendale's roles.

  • Running Gag: Everyone accuses Ken of being a Nazi sympathiser because of all his books on the history of WWII.
  • Shower of Love: Dylan and Zoe try the bath variant of this but it doesn't go well. Specifically, Dylan has food poisoning and has a diarrhoea attack. And then Zoe's mother bursts in.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Connie describes herself as a qualified psychiatrist despite only having done a two day course.
  • Smug Snake: Given how every single thing Cuckoo says and does agitates Ken in some way, the chances of him just being Innocently Insensitive gets less and less plausible with each passing episode.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In Series 2, Cuckoo is replaced by his long lost son who moves in with the family, has similar hippy beliefs to his father, and shares the same name.
    • Discussed in the second episode of series 2, where despite the similarities, Cuckoo Jr is shown to have more shades of an overly trusting Naïve Newcomer due to his cult upbringing as opposed to the more independent and opinionated Cuckoo Sr.
  • Talking in Bed: Ken and Lorna often do this.
  • Their First Time: Of the two onscreen instances where Dylan and Zoe try to have sex, the first time they are interrupted by Ken, and the second time Dylan suffers a Potty Failure when they are in the bath together and Zoe's mother bursts in almost simultaneously with the intent of stopping them.
  • Time Skip: Series 3 takes place almost a year after Dale leaves England. He spent the time living in Shanghai and getting into trouble, while Ken and Lorna grapple with a Surprise Pregnancy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Cuckoo. Literally. In the first scene of Series 2 while hiking in the Himalayas, he tries to rescue a mountain goat. Oblivious to the fact that the mountain is its habitat and it is in no danger (despite the Sherpas he is in radio contact telling him this repeatedly) and falls to his death.
    • This also applies to his son Dale who is barely even capable of crossing the road and gets run over twice in the first episode.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The climax of Series 2 Episode 2 is built around this happening to all of Dylan's party guests and a Potty Failure from Dylan himself after they all eat jacket potatoes topped with Cuckoo's special sauce that not only contains fish but has been sitting in the garage for two years.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Despite what he may think of them, Steve's martial arts skills leave a lot to be desired. As Dale demonstrates.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Cuckoo initially believes his book will change the world for the better. He figures out this isn't practical given the current need for a job and decides selling potatoes will do the job as well.
  • Wham Shot: The Christmas special ends with Rachel hearing Dale's truck and tearfully running down the driveway as she helplessly watches him drive away.