Two Point Four Children (BBC1, 1991-1999)
Some of the pieces that I have done looking back at classic comedy have featured shows that were written by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, including the rather unusual End Of Part One and Whoops Apocalypse. They then went on to have success individually, with Renwick going on to create the very popular One Foot In The Grave, while Marshall was behind this one, which was definitely a cut above the average BBC1 sitcom of the time.
What this show has in common with One Foot In The Grave though is that although at first the idea came across as rather traditional for a sitcom, it would soon come clear that there was much more to it. That means that at first glance Two Point Four Children doesn’t really stand out too much, as it features the lives of the Porter family who lived in London. But they are not as average as they seem.
There were the parents Bill and Ben (Belinda Lang, who was also in ITV’s sitcom Second Thoughts around the same time, and Gary Olsen), along with their two children Jenny and David. Family life would be portrayed in a much more realistic way than most sitcoms, and episodes weren’t afraid to take an unusual twist. Ben worked as a plumber, and he was often assisted by Christine, who turned out to be rather useless. Bill worked in a bakery alongside her friend Rona, before they went on to set up their own catering business.
The two children are often finding themselves in the trouble that teenagers usually go through. We also meet a few other family members, including Ben’s sister and Bill’s mother. The interplay between the family was always enjoyable. Ben liked to play pranks that often went wrong and was more easy-going than Bill, who was frustrated with life and liked to go on a rant about things.
Two Point Four Children went on to do really well with viewers, receiving consistently good ratings, and returning year after year throughout the 90s, which meant that they earned more chances than most shows to play around with the genre. There were several Christmas specials that put the family into different situations, and even featured some song and dance routines.
There were 56 episodes of Two Point Four Children in eight series, and there could’ve been even more if it wasn’t for the death of Gary Olsen (who played Ben) in 2000. There were also plenty of repeat runs on UK Gold. The show hasn’t been that well served by DVD unfortunately. Only the first three series have been released, we still await the others. If anyone does ever want to release all the series, they’d definitely have a buyer in me.