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2point4 Children: series one

cast: Belinda Lang, Gary Olsen, Clare Woodgate, John Pickard, and Julia Hills
director: Richard Boden
117 minutes (PG) 1991
Eureka DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
The Porters are a normal family - central-heating engineer Ben, his wife Bill, and teenage children David and Jenny - but they manage to find themselves in so extraordinary situations...

Its title refers to the average family size, but surprisingly, the six episodes of 2point4 Children serve up some quirky moments of humour. True, as with most sitcoms, some of the humour is very predictable and the characters are over-exaggerated. (The teenage daughter Jenny is the 'weakest link' in this ensemble. She is just too stroppy. And as a teacher of teenagers, believe me, I know stroppy!) But generally, 2point4 Children is quite viewable in the sense that you can watch it whilst doing other things around the house like preparing a meal, doing the ironing or, as I was whilst viewing this DVD, working on a laptop.

2point4 Children follows the 'prescribed' sitcom format - a semi in the suburbs, irritating children and a neighbour who features heavily in the lives of the family (in this case it's Rhona; a 'tart with a heart' who sleeps with any man she brushes past but, by episode six of this first series, realises that meaningless sex with strange men may not be as empowering as it seems). The recurring storyline in this first series is Bill's growing awareness that she may be missing out on a 'wilder' side of life because of the ever-present demands of her family. These feelings are manifested in her chance meetings with biker Angelo, on whom she develops a crush. But despite her husband Ben's maturity rivalling that of their teenage children, Bill loves her husband.

Belinda Lang and Gary Olsen, who play Bill and Ben, make this sitcom. Lang with the pathos she gives to her role as Bill, and Olsen for his cheeky, lovable family man Ben. Obviously the public warmed to them as well because 2point4 Children ran on the BBC for nine years and at its peak in the mid-1990s, was pulling in ratings of 13 million.

Olsen died prematurely of cancer in 2000 aged 42, and this DVD features a tribute to him - essentially a voiceover detailing his career and images of him from the first series. Whilst interesting, I thought the tribute appeared a bit amateurish. Considering Gary Olsen was such an integral part of a series that is one of the BBC's more popular sitcoms, I expected something more befitting. There is also a stills gallery and subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing.

What I particularly like about this series is the smattering of pathos and black humour in the seemingly routine lives of the Porter family. I didn't hold much hope when I pressed 'play' for the first episode (I had heard of the show but never seen an episode) but I was pleasantly surprised and will be interested to see the character development in the subsequent series.

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