30 August 2007 | tom.keller
So innovative, so accurate
There have been lots of attempts to show the comic side of so called "ordinary life" but they always fall into the trap of trying to create gags, as opposed to reflecting what we all know, which is that real life often throws up comic moments if only you let it. This is exactly what the producers, writers, directors, actors have got together to do. After watching 2 episodes I thought these kids are absolutely brilliant - they are being allowed to express themselves with none of the stiffness that a script would bring about. This is especially true for the young actors but it is also true for the excellent Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis, and you can see the delight on their faces as they react to the children's spontaneity. It just shows how powerful the technique of improvised and semi-improvised filming can be, and whilst it's not a new device, I personally believe it's greatly underused. We all know about Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Woody Allen etc, and we constantly hear about great moments which ended up in a film which were the result of some spontaneous improvisation, and yet we steer away from this dangerous approach. I don't want to put writers out of a job, and in Outnumbered we can see once again the originality and creativity of Andy Hamilton's and Guy Jenkin's style, but they appreciate that they are part of a creative team which produces an end product greater than the sum of its parts. Let's use the technique more in 'adult' drama and comedy and not think that it only works where there are cute kids!
A word too about the subject matter itself. It is so extraordinarily well-observed and accurate; I recognise 99% of what's going on on screen. Now I realise that this is a portrayal of one particular life style, and not all the truths are universal ones, but the fact that the choice of family is relatively specific should not lead to it being dismissed as a comedy for the chattering classes, as though that somehow negates its worth.