It follows the Brockmans, a family of five, who live somewhere in West London (ages are of as the final series):
- Pete (Hugh Dennis) - father, a teacher.
- Sue (Claire Skinner) - mother, part time PA.
- Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) - the eldest sibling at 17, 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:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Jake's reaction to Ben's story about Ibrahim getting mugged.
- Adults Are Useless: Large amounts of the show contain Pete and Sue getting everything spectacularly wrong, which also yields a 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 centre 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.
- Aw, 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 series 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 Series 5.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: A running gag in the Comic Relief special is that Sue is extraordinarily bad at telling jokes.
- Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Otto, the exchange student, thinks that Boris Johnson is a character played by a comedian.
- 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.
- There are more than a few Doctor Who references. Claire Skinner (Sue) had a guest role in the 2011 Christmas special for that year, while David Troughton (Mr Hunslet) had a guest role in the episode "Midnight". Outnumbered also featured Silas Carson (Ravi), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Ray), Rebecca Front (Karen's headteacher) and John Sessions (the vicar at Bob's funeral), both of whom had various roles in the show's post-2005 revival. Finally, Samantha Bond (Angela) had a role in The Sarah Jane Adventures, while guest star Katy Wix also appeared in Torchwood's Children of Earth.
- The Star Wars universe is mentioned semi-regularly. The aforementioned Silas Carson had two roles in the prequel trilogy, specifically that of Ki-Adi Mundi and Nute Gunray.
- Pete name-drops Horrible Histories in Series 4. Katy Wix, a member of the ensemble cast, had a guest role as a prospective buyer of the Brockman's house.
- Christmas Episode: 4 of them, with the 2016 Christmas special stranding the family at a pub after getting into a car accident on their way to scatter Granddad's ashes.
- Comically Missing the Point: Usually Ben or Karen.
- Corpsing: This occurs a few times during the show, considering that it's semi-improvised. One notable example had Ben laughing over the suggestion of Watch My Chops to prove that TV is educational, and Pete stays in character mentioning that he doesn't find it funny.
- Creepy Child:
- Karen, frequently - especially when she outlines her plan to kill all the terrorists in the world, while looking completely adorable.[As a solution to If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him]: "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. The accent doesn't help.Taylor-Jean: *mechanically*: I'm so much happier.
- Karen, frequently - especially when she outlines her plan to kill all the terrorists in the world, while looking completely adorable.
- Cringe Comedy:
- 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 always has his sarcastic moments in each episode.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
- Jake always has his sarcastic moments in each episode.
- Death Glare: In the final episode after Pete and Jake catch Tommy the hamster and Karen gratefully hugs Pete and Jake, Stacey asks Sue if she wants a hug as well. Stacey wisely backs off after an angry Sue gives her one of these.
- 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.
- Drives Like Crazy: The reason they got into a car accident on Christmas in the 2016 Christmas special was because Ben was driving and wasn't looking where he was going. (Sue would have driven them but he accidentally dropped the frozen turkey on her foot.)
- 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.Gran: What's that?" *indicating a paper-maché elephant head*
Pete: Oh, that's the elephant in the room. We don't talk about that.
Gran: Why not?
Pete: 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 Games for the first time (which he only did because the others were all in bed). Earlier in the same episode, Pete is shown doing very badly at the game, and Ben lampshades this word for word.
- When Ben clogs up the washing machine by putting in two loads at once (don't ask), Jake brings up how Pete once tried to fix the radiators himself, and they ended up full of sewage. Hot sewage. Pete blames it on a systemic design flaw.
- 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":
Karen: Dust to dust, for richer or for poorer, may the force be with you, because you're worth it. Amen and out.
- 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.
- Karen gives a "funeral" to a mouse.
- Freudian Slip:
- In "The Hospital", Ben tries to talk Jake into wrestling with Kelly, their babysitter whom Jake has a crush on. Jake refuses, and eventually yells: "For God's sake, Ben, I do not want to kiss Kelly!"
- In "The Funeral", Pete gives the eulogy at the funeral of his uncle, and can't decide whether to mention his male partner:Anyhow, this isn't a mournful gay. Day.
- Funny Background Event:
- Sue kicking Auntie Angela in the buttocks as Pete talks to a clergyman in the episode "The Wedding".
- 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.
- 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 exists 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?
- Ice-Cream Koan: Ben received A-levels in Psychology and Philosophy, even wondering if reality is a thing while the family are stranded at a pub on Christmas. The rest of the family tends to tell him to shut up when he starts pondering things.
- 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 dyslexic 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". Oh dear.
- 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.
- 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 Series 4.
- 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).
- Karen's headmaster is a massive one, channelling The Trunchbull (ironic, given how she was ranting about how she hates Roald Dahl) by essentially telling Karen that she's nothing special and that she's a stupid little girl for thinking otherwise. Whether you think the speech was needed for Karen to Take A Level In Kindness or not, it was still incredibly nasty and not at all something anyone in charge of children should do.
- The policeman in the 2012 Christmas special for utter abuse of power, lying about the donkey incident that Jake's "friend" caused.
- 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: "Daddy, you ever think we're just characters in someone's dream?"
- Lethal Chef: Ben. It didn't help he was trying to copy Esther Rantzen, and then 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.
- Never My Fault: Jake brings up an Epic Fail concerning Pete, where he tries to fix the washing machine. Apparently, Pete had once tried to fix the radiators, and they ended up full of sewage. Pete simply says in response, "That was a systemic design flaw", unwilling to admit his incompetence.
- 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)
- 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...
- Noodle Incident: A lot of off-screen incidents.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. The characters have aged appropriately (Jake is now 22, and accepting a job in New Zealand, Ben is now 18 and built like a footballer and Karen is now 15). 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 to actual sanity 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. 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
- For Series 1, each episode would begin with a montage of past clips.
- A dramatic version opens the final episode of series 4.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Pete and Sue are disturbingly okay with Angela and her young stepdaughter returning to an abusive husband and father.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Claire Skinner had a broken foot while filming the 2016 Christmas Special, which subtly influenced the plot of her dropping a frozen turkey on her foot.
- 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:
- 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, while not very tall, otherwise fits the bill now that he's a teenager.
- To Be Continued: Series 4 Episode 5.
- Took a Level in Jerkass:
- Totally Radical: Pete to Jake.
- Tranquil Fury: Pete is very much exhibiting this when he finally stops Sue and Angela's massive argument during the dinner party episode, and trying very hard not to shout as he shuts the two up and orders Sue to take Ben back to bed.
- 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:
- Karen's friend Alexa answers Pete asking whether her disorganised and scatter-brained mum Jane will be there to pick her up soon with a deadpan, "I doubt it."