Follow TV Tropes


Series / 2point4 Children

Go To
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 1point8 Children.

The main characters were:

  • Bill (Wilhelmina) Porter, a caterer - (played by Belinda Lang)
  • Ben Porter, her husband, a plumber - (played by Gary Olsen)
  • Jenny, their daughter - (played by Clare Woodgate in Series 1 and 2, then Clare Buckfield for the rest of the series)
  • David, their son - (played by John Pickard)
  • Rhona, a nymphomaniac Drop-In Character - (played by Julia Hills)
  • Christine, Ben's bad-tempered apprentice - (played by Kim Bensons)

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 (1967). And Bill had numerous prophetic dreams given to her by her Spirit Advisor, a biker.

2point4 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. 2point4 Children has strong echoes of Burkiss, but is a little less surrealistic.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Passenger: In "Two Years Before The Mast", the Porter family come onboard a cruise ship to say goodbye to Aunt Tina, who has booked herself on a luxury cruise there. However, before they can disembark, the ship sets sail, leading to them trying to hide their presence from the rest of the ship.
  • An Aesop: One of the Christmas specials ended with Bill giving a speech to the audience about how easy it is to become homeless.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • "Fortuosity" revolves around Bill getting a Chain Letter and getting increasingly bad luck. At the very end, after her car is destroyed by a falling army truck, it is revealed that the whole episode is just a dream that Bill is having in bed.
    • "Fame", which has the family try to get picked for a documentary, ends with the reveal that once again, Bill had dreamt the whole thing up in bed.
  • 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.
  • Appearance Angst: "Hormones" reveals that Jenny has been making herself sick after meals because she believes that other girls are thinner and prettier than her.
  • 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.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: In "Frenzy", after Rhona's living-room is invaded by a pair of hooded cobras.
    Bill: Where did they come from?
    Rhona: Pizza Hut. Get a medium deep-pan, regular diet coke, and two poisonous reptiles of your choice for 4.95. How should I know?!
  • Away in a Manger: Happens in an episode where Rhona finds an abandoned baby at Christmas.
  • Beast in the Building: Whilst visiting Rona in her living room in "Frenzy", Bill is startled to find two hooded cobras there, having apparently escaped from pizza boxes that Rona had ordered and which have taken up residence in her home. They subsequently spend the episode in fear that the cobras will kill them... until Bill hears what sounds like fire engines coming to her house, at which point she manages to subdue the cobras with ease.
  • Black Comedy Pet Death: Ben accidentally killing the pet goldfish by putting it into a food mixer at the end of "Badger's Bend". Taken even further in The Stinger, where his actor, Gary Olsen, explains how they used a prop fish for the event....only to accidentally kill the real one by putting it into a microwave.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Jenny starts out as a 14-year-old and is the sort of person who spends her time complaining about her life and her family. She also has a tendency of skipping school and being uninterested in her work, all so that she can partake in romantic relationships.
  • British Brevity: Every series had six or seven episodes, with an occasional Christmas Special. Due to churning them out annually for eight years however, it still ended on a healthy total of 56 episodes.
  • Catchphrase: Bill's is "Don't Slam Your Door", usually said (and ignored) when one of her children goes to their bedrooms.
  • Chain Letter: The plot of "Fortuosity", where Bill receives a copy of the International Chain of Good Fortune, which grants good luck to those who pass it on to six of her friends and bad luck to those who don't. Although Bill is skeptical and tears up the letter, the family starts getting bad luck afterward. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that, despite the fact that the episode was All Just a Dream, the letter does exist in reality, and Bill speculates that ripping it up may have led to the house burning down at the end of Series 4.
  • Christmas Episode: Five of them! All of which end with a bizarre Broadway-esque musical number.
  • Chronic Pet Killer: The Porters have a bit of a poor track record of keeping animals, whether that be their animals or their neighbor's animals. This usually happens through misfortune or coincidence, whether it be having to put their neighbor's dog down from stomach problems, their goldfish getting tossed into a food mixer, the neighbor's cat getting trapped under the floor (although it's later revealed to have survived, albeit severely traumatized), or even an entire flock of homing pigeons suffocating to death under their watch. They themselves are aware of this, and usually freak out when their neighbors ask them to watch over their pets. Thankfully, their luck improves when they get Harry the Dog, who survives the rest of the series.
  • Cruise Episode: In "Two Years Before The Mast", Tina has booked herself on a cruise. Chaos ensues when the ship departs with the Porter family, who were moving the luggage and had come aboard the ship to say goodbye, still on board.
  • 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.
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: This is usually a Dom Com about the bizarre occurrences which happen to the Porter family but there are some moments that aren't Played for Laughs:
    • Birds on a Wire and Thank Your Lucky Stars feature David being at death's door from Tetanus. Although the state of the NHS is used for Black Comedy, David's condition isn't, especially when he reveals to Bill's motorcyclist friend (now a ghost since the beginning of Series 2) that he's thinking of succumbing to Death by Despair because of the belief that his family doesn't love him, although he rebounds after his father tells him that he loves him.
    • You Only Live Twice features the destruction of the Porter family house in a House Fire. Although most of the family's reaction is played for laughs, mainly involving them hoping to take advantage of the insurance to get more stuff, Bill's isn't, and it's genuinely heartbreaking seeing her faced with the destruction of her home.
  • Contraception Deception: In "Whoopee We're All Going to Die", Rhona wants a child and gets her boyfriend Tony to agree he will impregnate her promising him that won't have to have a role in the child life if he didn't want. However, when it comes down to doing the deed, Rhona struggles to get an unresponsive Tony in the mood who finally confesses at the end of the episode he's just not ready to be a father even if he wasn't involved. Seemingly accepting it, Rhona suggests as they're already here to just have sex for the fun of it, which Tony can agree with. However, the last shot shows her poking a hole in his condom with a needle.
  • Couple Theme Naming: Bill and her husband Ben are certainly named after Bill & Ben, The Flowerpot Men.
  • Cousin Oliver: Declan, the Porters' foster child, who was also a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for the departing Jenny.
  • Creator Cameo: Andrew Marshall, who was the creator of the show, voiced one of the alien voices at the start of "Fortuosity".
  • 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.
  • Deadly Scratch: In "Bird on a Wire", David manages to get himself a cut. He ends up contacting Tetanus from it and he ends up at death's door over the course of the next episode (although he thankfully survives).
  • 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.
  • Delusions of Doghood: In "The Skeletons In The Cupboard", Bill has a job interview. Unfortunately for her, she finds out that her interviewer has suffered a nervous breakdown after being fired from his job and has begun acting like a dog, right up to stripping naked and having to be treated like a dog.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ben's father, who walked out on his children when they were young and was frequently absent from their lives.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • "We'd Like to Know a Little More About You For Our Files" is about Bill's suspicions that David is seeing a Mrs. Robinson (and the punchline is that he's actually performing in a stage version of The Graduate ... and may or may not be having a relationship with his drama teacher), so the title appropriately references the Simon & Garfunkel song. But the focus on Bill's concern that she doesn't know where her son is spending his time, which leads to her following him and reading his Secret Diary, mean that the title also works entirely literally.
    • "Sticky Fingers" is a reference to all three plotlines in the episode - the women run into problems with glue whilst replacing a floor, Declan is arrested on shoplifting, which is a reference to the meaning of sticky fingers as a reference to stealing, and Ben tries to stop Jenny and Keith from having sex, a reference to the meaning of sticky fingers to try to give a person an orgasm.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: A plot point in Series 3 revolves around Bill having strange dreams where a mysterious person tells her "Don't go.... MIA..." These words prove to be prophetic when the Porters go on a holiday to Florida and end up coming into contact with a hurricane in Miami that has the same name as Bill.
  • Dream Intro: "I'm Going Slightly Mad" opens with Bill having a really bizarre dream, including her sleeping with her mysterious biker friend, Jenny bringing over a punkish looking lad named Phlegm, Rona as a nun, and some people who have come to install Sky.
  • Driving Test: Part of the plot for "Dirty Bowling" revolves around Bill's belated attempts to pass her driving test. However, an unavoidable trip to the dentist has made her difficult to understand, a problem since some of the test involves her having to say out loud some of the road signs. Despite this, however, she is successful thanks to the assistance of her mysterious motorbike friend Angelo.
  • Drop-In Character: Rhona and Christine both fill this role and appear as the story demands.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The show was much less surrealistic in the first two series, with an ongoing plot thread involving Bill's possible feelings for a mysterious biker playing a major part in episode plots.
    • Christine only appeared in one episode of Series 1, and even then only as a woman manning the meat till in a supermarket - it wasn't until Series 2 that she settled into her role as Ben's assistant.
    • Jenny was played by Clare Woodgate in Series 1 and 2, with it not being until Series 3 that she settled into her most known actor, Clare Buckfield, for the rest of the series.
  • 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 Rhona's real mother, discovered when Rhona has to provide her birth certificate in order to have her house's tenancy transferred into her own name.
  • Fictional Video Game: An arc in Series 3 revolves around Ben getting addicted to a video game named "Ninja Badger", although we don't see much of it in action.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Leader of the Pack", Bill's mysterious motorcycle friend crashes in front of her as she is leaving the school. Bill is notably unable to get his pulse before he regains consciousness, an early hint at his true nature.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Ben's sister Tina, who is shrill, fussy, snobbish, uptight, and offensive. Bill and Ben do not enjoy being around her, but try to keep the peace just because she's family.
  • Fun with Subtitles: As shown in "One Night in Bangkok", Ben and his father's awkward reunion has their brief words to each other subtitled, showing what they're really saying - for instance, his father's statement of "Been a While" is subtitled as "I don't know what else to say to you".
  • Gasshole: Rufus, the dog owned by the neighbours next door. There is a reason he's also known as "Farty" - he has a tendency to fart when he barks. Eventually Played for Drama when it turns out that the farting issue is from an ailing digestive system, and the Porters are forced to put the dog down.
  • Gender-Blender Name:
    • Bill (full name Wilhelmina) is a girl with a typically masculine nickname.
    • 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 loses hers at the slightest provocation.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: In "Bird on a Wire", Rona, whilst changing the bulb in the kitchen, gets herself stuck on the light fitting. Bill, in her attempts to rescue her, also gets herself stuck in the catflap.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite his standard characterization, 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.
  • Holiday Episode: "Whoopee, We're All Going to Die" focuses on the Porters having a holiday in Florida. However, terror strikes when a hurricane named Bill forms and starts to pursue the family across America.
  • Homage: One episode consists largely of a homage to The Prisoner (1967) set in Portmeirion, Wales, complete with appropriate costumes and giant bouncing ball.
  • House Fire: "Frenzy" ends with the Porter's family house going up in flames thanks to a faulty kettle, with "You Only Live Twice" focusing on the aftermath as the family begins to pick up from there.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: The addictively delicious "Drool" chocolate bars.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: When Bill's not well-beloved sister-in-law Tina shows up at a catering event she's doing in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown", Bill imagines doing violent things to her, choking her and shoving her face into some food to "Psycho" Strings.
  • Internal Reveal: Although Angelo's death is revealed to the audience at the end of "I'm Going Slightly Mad", Bill doesn't find out until she finds his obituary on an old newspaper in the later "One Night in Bangkok".
  • 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: A prime example:
    • It is a perfectly mundane show, with the exception of the strange things that happen to the mother, Bill Porter. Like the number of prophetic dreams she's had, or the time she found herself chased... by a hurricane (the storm literally followed her when she left Miami to avoid it, and was also named Hurricane Bill).
    • Odd things occasionally happen to her husband as well. Yes, it's possible that his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis (who's a The Prisoner (1967) fan) might kidnap him and leave him in Portmerion... but then Rover appears... And the man on the motorcycle who kept appearing whenever Bill needed help and who may actually have been Dead All Along.
    • One episode has the characters believing that a neighbor is a vampire, and breaking into his house with a giant crucifix. There appears to be a rational explanation — but the ending of the episode strongly implies he is a real vampire.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The show uses this often, such as Bill receiving warnings in a dream from a biker (who turns out to be a real person that died), and one episode suggesting that a neighbour and her son may be vampires.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Comes up in "One Night in Bangkok" when Ben's father, who lives in Thailand, comes to visit with his new Thai wife. She later explains to Bill that, while she feels he's a good husband, she initially married him just because her family is so poor.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant:
    • In "Hormones", Bill believes herself to be pregnant and takes a test. It turns out to be a false alarm but one of the testers goes missing. Cue Ben taking it and believing himself to be pregnant.
    • In ""The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe", Rona thinks that she is pregnant after she begins having Wacky Cravings. It's actually diabetes which is causing these cravings.
  • Mistaken for Transformed: In "Carry On Screaming", Ben is led to believe that he's a werewolf and that, as it's apparently an inheritable condition, David is one as well. Running home to warn him, they find a dog under the moonlight in the attic, leading everyone to think that David has become a dog. In truth, it was a random mongrel from around the corner, neither of them actually being werewolves at all.
  • 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.
  • Mister 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".
  • Mysterious Protector: Angelo the biker in Series 1 - he has an eerie tendency to show up in times of need for Bill and refuses to provide any information about himself when asked, giving off the implication that he's some sort of guardian angel for Bill. Series 2 suggests that he seems to at least be a real person however when the news reports on his recent death in a motorcycle crash.
  • The Napoleon: Christine is a petite woman with an aggressive attitude and short temper.
  • No Longer with Us: When David is rushed to the 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.
  • Parenting the Husband: Ben's tendency towards obsessive behaviour often led to Bill having to take care of things for him. Andrew Marshall said that one interpretation of the title was that he was the "point four".
  • Power Outage Plot:
    • The main plot of "Family Plot", where the Porters suffer a power outage. Bill deliberately prolongs the outage by self-mailing her the needed fuse wire to fix it but the resulting boring conversation leads to her trying to retrieve it.
    • "The Millenium Experience" combines this with New Year Has Come by having workmen, who had been sent in to look at a possible gas leak, accidentally cause a power cut in the neighborhood during the wait for the new millennium. The family thus uses the opportunity to tell embarrassing stories about themselves in the dark.
  • The Precarious Ledge: Bill and Rhona 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 backward and breaks through the paper-thin wall.
  • Really Gets Around: Rhona has a very active love life both on and off screen.
  • Runaway Bride: Rhona 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.
  • Running Gag:
    • In Series 1, Bill misnaming Jenny's boyfriend Spin (real name Scott).
    • Bill blaming the most ridiculous things on Margaret Thatcher, like a hurricane heading straight for them.
  • "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.
  • Sick Episode:
    • In "Bedtime for Bonzo", Ben falls ill from the flu. Hilarity Ensues when Bill gives him aspirin meant for the neighbor's dog next door.
    • Played more seriously in "Bird on a Wire" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars" when David falls ill from Tetanus and the epiosde is focused on the very real possibility that he could die.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Jake the Klingon to Ben.
  • Special Edition Title: For the Christmas episodes.
  • 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 2point4 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.
  • Stoners Are Funny: In one episode Bill's mother and Rhona's very uptight Auntie Pearl smoke a tin of tobacco that they found behind a lavatory cistern, not realising that it was actually cannabis. Cue several scenes of them having very giggly conversations.
  • Sudden Musical Ending:
    • Every Christmas Episode of ends with the characters in a parody of a cheesy American Bing Crosby-style Christmas Special, singing 1950s Christmas songs. In the first one, it was justified as an Imagine Spot into Bill's mother's fantasy Christmas. In subsequent years, though, it just happened.
    • A more justified example is in the episode "Frenzy", which almost ends with Jenny's school talent contest and Ben and David accompanying her singing "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love". Then they get home and discover the house is on fire.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: In "Young at Heart", Rona is being sexually harassed by her boss at the bakery where she and Bill work at. They retaliate by leading him on and allowing him to strip naked before announcing that they quit and locking him inside the building.
  • 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 is a girl, but has a masculine nickname.
  • Very Special Episode: The show had a few of these.
    • A Christmas special based around homelessness
    • An episode where Bill is critical of David's new friend whom she sees as a Lower-Class Lout, but realizes over the course of the episode that this perception is based on stereotypes and he's a decent kid from a struggling family.
    • Rhona finds an abandoned baby and takes him in, but has to learn (through personal experience and Bill's advice) that wanting a child does not necessarily mean she's cut out to be a mother.
  • 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!"


Video Example(s):


2point4 Children Theme Tune

The theme tune for Series 6 and 7 of "2point4 Children" features the characters awkwardly dancing to the theme song.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / DancingTheme

Media sources: