Outnumbered made a great debut on BBC1 last night, recording ratings considerably higher than that normally achieved by shows in the 10:35pm post-news time slot.
According to the unofficial overnight figures the first episode of the family-based sitcom started with 4.1 million viewers, a massive 25.2% share of the audience. Over the half-hour the comedy saw its audience drop by over a million viewers, down to 2.8m in the last fifteen minutes. Despite this, the 19.5% share the comedy ended with is still considerably higher than the 2.2m (14%) average for the time slot.
Outnumbered is a semi-improvised sitcom written, produced and directed by Drop the Dead Donkey creators Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton. Starring Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner, the comedy is about a family in London where the parents are 'outnumbered' by their three children - aged five, seven and eleven. The subtle fly-on-the-wall comedy follows the daily chaos of family life as the two parents are locked in an unequal contest with their three kids.
BBC1 bosses will no doubt be hoping that the 2.8 million viewers who watched last night will stick with the sitcom as, in a bizarre scheduling decision, the show continues tonight, with another episode on Thursday and the final three being shown next week.
The general reaction from newspaper critics has been positive. Here's a selection of reviews...
"There's a nice feel to the piece, thanks to Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner as harassed parents, and the three endearing little actors who play their kids. Dennis's painfully precise exchanges with his tiny offspring are particularly funny, whether he's bribing his youngest son to put down a drill that he wants to take to school for "show and tell", or making a fool of himself in front of his eldest son as he tries to get rid of a cold-caller. It's all very low-key, but none the worse for it." Alison Graham, The Radio Times
"The programme already looks like being much better than its many rivals. It feels both carefully observed and suspiciously heartfelt. More unusually, it's not contrived. Outnumbered sticks firmly with the mundane, yet manages to be funny about it. It doesn't avoid the sheer dullness involved in family life either – but, happily, depicts it with a winning mixture of exasperation and affection. Despite the very specific London setting, the series (shown in two batches of three, this week and next) will surely appeal to the parents of young children everywhere. As long, that is, as they're not asleep by 10.35pm." James Walton, The Telegraph
"Outnumbered was crap. The programme, described by its producers as an "honest" look at family life, was wilfully perverse, to the point of obscurantism, in its avoidance of anything as elemental as, well, drama. Outnumbered unfolded like a nightmare episode of Kids Say the Funniest Things, but without the jokes." Kevin Maher, The Times
"Having no hard and fast lines, the children sound entirely natural, particularly the angelic Karen, whose golden curls were being inspected for nits by her mother. She said: "Do you think I could keep a nit for a pet? Because it's not very big. Just one. Well ... what about a puffin?" That puffin seemed to come from outfield and take her mother entirely by surprise. It is being shown rather haphazardly on successive nights. The BBC seems to be trying it out on the dog. The dog being the only one at home at the moment." Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian
"Overall, this might not be a masterpiece, but there were some great lines along the way, as we would expect from the writers of Drop The Dead Donkey, and the performances are all pleasingly natural and believable - possibly Skinner aside, who I found rather annoying. But please, you have to watch Outnumbered just to see this kid Ramona Marquez. She's a star." annawaits, TV Scoop
Viewers seem more divided though as is demonstrated in our forum thread.