‘Outnumbered’ Christmas 2016 special review: We hope this becomes an annual tradition

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Christmas is the season for catching up with old friends and so Boxing Day night seems an ideal time to entertain the Brockman family.

It has been almost three years since the Outnumbered gang last graced our screens with their semi-improvised mayhem and unsurprisingly the kids have shot up (what are they feeding them?);  Karen (Ramona Marquez) is now thoroughly teenage, Ben (Daniel Roche) is doing A levels and looks like a rugby prop, and Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) has relationship issues.

However, the more things change, the more they stay the same – Pete remains as awkward as ever and Sue as frustrated – and with the whole family in tow, plus Jake’s girlfriend, they head out on Boxing Day to honour Granddad’s final wishes and scatter his ashes.

Eschewing the familiarity of the family home, where so much of the onscreen growing up took place, this special instead begins in the wake of a car accident. The action then promptly moved to the bar of the ‘Jolly Woodman’ public house.

As they awaited recovery, the suspicion that the other driver, a wheelchair user, may be planning to stitch them up with a hefty insurance claim placed Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s story on firm Outnumbered ground, challenging social niceties and  forcing Pete and Sue to dance around political correctness. This became a running theme, with Jake’s 21st century outrage at forcing Pete into further embarrassment with a potential recovery driver.

The pub setting offered guest star Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) ample chances to deliver one liners and a bit of topical content from behind the bar, at one point brandishing a Brexit swear tin.

Each of the children had their moment, with Ben now spouting philosophical quandaries at inopportune moments and Jake wrestling with how best to part with his lovely girlfriend Kate (Daisy Edgar-Jones), but it was clear that Karen stole all the best lines; although physically present, she spent most of the time attending a friend’s party via Facetime yet still had the wherewithal to protect the clan by heading off an incoming lawsuit.

So, was this as good as the show in its heyday? It’s not laugh out loud funny, but more chucklesome and cringe-inducing – the Trump gags seemed a little forced (have we just accepted the inevitable?), but the dynamic between the ever-so-slightly desperate parents and their now worldly-wise children remains as true as ever.

The Brockmans are still good company and this festive outing is entertaining fare, ideally placed for watching after two days spent ministering to your own clan. We hope this return becomes an annual tradition.

Aired on Monday 26 December 2016 on BBC One.

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