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DVD Review

DVD cover

2Point4 Children
Series 1-3 Box Set


Starring: Belinda Lang, Gary Olsen and Julia Hills
Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 22 September 2008

On the surface the Porters are a normal family - indeed, even the series' title 2Point4 Children, the fabled average family size, alludes to their normality (as well as the fact that the husband/father is still a bit of a child himself). Yet, though the individual members - central-heating engineer Ben; his wife, catering worker Bill; and their teenage children David and Jenny - are unexceptional, the situations in which the family occurrences and poor judgement all conspire to turn the Porters' world topsy-turvy...

2Point4 Children ran for eight series, between 1991 and 1999. The show would probably have continued for more years, but tragically Gary Olsen, who played Ben Porter, died of cancer in 2000. He was only 42. This release collect together the first three series (which were previously available as single disc releases) in one box set.

The first series gets the show off on the right foot. Unlike most British comedies of that time, 2Point4 Children had an ongoing narrative that loosely links each episode week after week. In series one this revolves around Bill and her obsession with a mysterious motorbike rider. But as the series progresses, and he seems to pop up all the time, it is left for the viewer to decide whether he is real or a figment of Ben's imagination - her fantasies manifesting themselves as flesh and blood.

This series sees Jenny skipping school to meet her boyfriend, the Porters dwindling sex life; a family barbecue; problems with supermarket security; a surprise visit by Bill's mother; Ben meeting an old girlfriend who still has the hots for him; Bill taking her driving test; and Ben buying, and hiding from his family, an expensive pale blue classic Chevy.

Anyone who has a family will immediately be able to draw parallels between their own lives and that of the Porters. Whether it's problems opening those small clear bags in the grocery section of supermarkets or dreading the mother-in-law coming to stay, there are plenty of situations that we can all recognise from our own lives. Even today, almost 17 years since this first series was originally broadcast, there are still plenty of familiar social situations to make you smile.

There are also plenty of familiar faces, to those of us in our mid-30's, including David Kelly (Robin's Nest and Fawlty Towers - who will be played Grandpa Joe in the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory); Steven Lewis (Blakey from On the Buses); and the Beryl Reid-like Liz Smith (Royle Family).

There are also several nods to classic movies. My favourite being the homage to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds - Ben leaves a council estate only to find a load of young children sat on her car.

Extras include a tribute to actor Gary Olsen, who died in 2000, and a photo gallery. The photo gallery is not like the majority - where you simply get stills from the series - but are publicity shots of the cast. However, this kept freezing on our DVD player (it would only go so far and then stop).

Series Two contains seven episodes as well as the Christmas special Misery. The first episode opens with Bill waking up in bed next to the mysterious biker that appeared in Series One. Thankfully this is all a dream, but a strange one, as we later discover that the biker has been killed in an accident. Several episodes feature more on the biker (his tragic accident is printed in the paper and he also appears to David, while he's ill in hospital.)

Stand out episodes in this series include:

One Night In Bangkok, in which Ben’s father is making a return trip to the UK. Ben has never really gotten along with him, but to keep everyone happy he tries to be civil. However on meeting him at the airport, the Porters discover that Ben's father has got himself a young, Thai bride, who he treats fairly badly. Bill and Rona take Ben's father's wife to see an all male strip show - where Rona discovers she knows one of the dancers.

The Skeleton In The Cupboard, which appears to be a supernatural based episode. After David finds a St Christopher's chain in a graveyard odd things start to happen. Bill senses a strange presence in the house. Could the chain have belonged to the mysterious, and now deceased, biker?

Bird on a Wire, and it's Rona's wedding day. Events don't go to plan and it seems that Rona is depressed... is she contemplating suicide? No one really notices, but when Bill goes round to see her, she discovers that Rona is dressed in her wedding dress and hanging limply from a light flex.

Misery, the Christmas Special, which is notable mainly because Liz Smith is fantastically loopy as Bill's mother.

Again there are also plenty of familiar faces, to those of us in our late-30's, including Sandra Dickinson (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - '80s TV mini-series); the late Barbara Lott (Sorry!); and the late Don Henderson as Ben's father.

The third series offers up another six (plus Christmas special - Babes in the Wood) episodes of mayhem as the Porters organise a funeral, try to rescue their neighbours from a vicious gang of thieves, and attempt to live through one of the worst hurricanes on record while on holiday.

Again, the series carried on many of its jokes from episode to episode. In Series Three, it's Ben's obsession with the latest console game Ninja Badger and Bill's strange psychic dreams which we keep revisiting.

Beam Me Up, Scotty is a great episode which will have Star Trek fans in stitches (those with a sense of humour, that is). Ben's old friend and nemesis, Jake Klinger, is a huge Trek fan. When he dies, it is down to Ben to organise the funeral as Jake wanted it - everyone must come dressed as a Star Trek character.

When the Children are Asleep is like the worst farce imaginable. The majority of this episode takes place at night after Bill sees what she thinks are two shady characters driving away from the neighbours house. The rest of the episode involves Bill trying to convince Ben that their neighbours may be in their house in need of help - despite the fact it's well known that they are on holiday. This episode also has a very amusing conclusion, one which I should have seen coming a mile away - but didn't.

Badger's Bend sees Ben falling asleep on the job. It soon becomes apparent that it's due to the fact that he has been sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night and playing Ninja Badger for hours at a time. When Bill finds out she makes him promise to stop playing it. But can he even get through the first day? This episode rang true for me, as I used to sit up until the early hours playing Tekken 2 on the Playstation, and then have a job staying awake at work. There is also a jokey 'behind the scenes' gag that shows how they didn't really kill the goldfish in this episode, and that it was all an illusion.

Again there are also plenty of familiar faces including Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger in Only Fools and Horses) and Richard Davies (Z Cars). And Claire Woodgate, who originally played Jenny in the first two series is replaced by Claire Buckfield.

Series Three seems to have aged less gracefully than Series One and Two, and there are not as many laugh out loud moments. In fact, there are some very embarrassing scenes - especially in Whoopee We're all Going to Die and the Christmas Special, Babes in the Wood. This series really should have stayed away from the touchy-feely scenes that are all too familiar in American shows. It looks out of place here. In fact, the British studio audience laugh uncomfortably several times in places they are not supposed to.

An entertaining slice of near-classic comedy which, at the ridiculously cheap retail price (and even crazier online offers), you've really got no excuse for not adding this to your collection.


Darren Rea

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