Country of origin
First episode date
3 September 1991
Final episode date
30 December 1999
Belinda LangGary OlsenJulia HillsClare Woodgate (series 1 & 2)Clare Buckfield (series 3–8)John Pickard
Cuckoo (TV series), Belinda Lang, My Family
2point4 children on sitcom does families
2point4 Children is a BBC Television sitcom that was created and written by Andrew Marshall. It follows the lives of the Porters, a seemingly average family whose world is frequently turned upside-down by bad luck and bizarre occurrences.
- 2point4 children on sitcom does families
- Main characters
- Supporting characters
- Plot summary
- Critical reception
- Home media
- Theme music
- OpeningClosing credit sequence
The show was originally broadcast on BBC One from 1991 to 1999, and ran for eight series, concluding with 30 December 1999 special episode, "The Millennium Experience". The September 2000 death from cancer of lead actor Gary Olsen, who played the father, ended the possibility of any subsequent specials. The show is now repeated regularly in the UK on Gold and Drama, and in Australia on UKTV.
The show's title refers to the once-average size of a UK family. There are two children in the Porter family, however Andrew Marshall has indicated that the father, Ben, could almost be considered another child, making up the "point four."
The show regularly picked up large audiences of up to 14 million in the early 1990s, with an average of between 6 and 9 million, the final episode was viewed by 9.03 million people.
The Porter family at first seem normal enough. Bill is the sensible, level-headed mother who does the cooking and housework whilst running a catering business with sex-crazed friend Rona. Ben is the father, who is often just as immature as the children. He runs a heating repair business with his slightly sarcastic assistant Christine.
Jenny is the typical teenage daughter, keen on boys, music, and vegetarianism, and David is the mischievous younger brother, who enjoys horror films, aliens, and annoying his older sister.
However, the Porters' world is frequently upended by bizarre occurrences and bad luck. Whether it's dealing with flatulent dogs, having frozen men in freezers in the front room, or even stumbling across Shirley Bassey's warehouse, anything seems possible in the Porters' world.
The show originally ran from 1991 to 1999. 56 episodes were made over eight series, including six Christmas specials in which the cast performed carols or original theme songs.
Critics hailed it as "one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time", whilst some made comparisons to US sitcom Roseanne, yet few critics made the connection between Marshall and former writing partner David Renwick, whose sitcom One Foot in the Grave features a variety of domestic surrealism, similar to 2point4 children.
Further recent articles have made reference to the show being "perhaps one of the most subversive prime-time family sitcoms", noting underlying levels of post modernism such as the main couple being named after the Flowerpot Men. It has also been noted that Rona's character can be read as that of a single gay man. Many other similar references and concepts are buried carefully beneath the apparently simple appearance of a family-type comedy, although Marshall has never drawn attention to them in interviews.
Eureka Video has also commented on the show on their website, saying:
Sitcom-wise, the shape of the series itself is different from the norm because, from the earliest episodes, it has centred not on the husband, Ben, but on his wife Bill. Even with the focus on Bill, the series still avoids the traditional woman-as-wife-and-mother theme of other series, instead portraying her as a fully rounded person in her own right, unconfined by her family.
Andrew Marshall had this to say of the show: "As always, I felt the quality of the shows was variable. Some episodes still make me shudder, others seem great fun. There are myriad reasons for that, some attributable to me, some not. I did feel Series 6 had a great improvement in consistency and style, but as before, nobody really noticed, as they'd all long since decided what they thought about it. I feel overall, that it pretty much achieved its goals, albeit with the normal ups and downs of a long running series."
He went on to say: "Gary [Olsen] [who played 'Ben'] was once very upset when the BBC mounted a "Best Comedy of All Time" Extravaganza, to which no-one from our (still running) show was invited, but seemingly everyone else was. I'm afraid I rather expected that, as it was somewhat par for the course. I rather suspect the critics never actually saw the show, but formed their opinions from the title and perhaps a trailer or two."
2point4 children has often been seen as a rather under-rated sitcom amongst fans.
The first three series were released on Region 2 DVD by Eureka Video in 2005, however Eureka stated "sales were not good", and did not release any further series. Despite poor DVD sales a box set of series 1–3 was also made available in 2008, again through Eureka Video.
There are differing reports of why further series have not been released. 2Entertain cite clearance problems in series 7; the use of a life size replica FAB1 car from Thunderbirds in an episode of series 7 was revealed to be the main issue surrounding the delayed release of the series. ITV plc who currently own Thunderbirds will not allow the use of the image without further fees and 2Entertain stated that cutting the image would interfere with the actual episode. Regarding music clearances, writer and creator, Andrew Marshall, comments that "All 2point4 Children shows were produced also in a clearable Worldwide edition, so I can't imagine what these mysterious problems might be, other than ridiculous BBC internal tariffs."
In 2009 a Facebook fan campaign was launched to get support for the series to be released in its entirety entitled '2point4 Children DVD Campaign'
The show was produced by the BBC and is still owned by BBC Worldwide, who release a vast amount of their programmes through 2Entertain (which is part owned by BBC Worldwide).
Additionally, BBC Enterprises released a video in 1993, comprising the first three episodes of the series, which are known as: Leader of the Pack, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Shopping.
The programme features an instrumental theme tune with unusual rhythm by Howard Goodall, which remained unchanged throughout the programme's run, although it was significantly shortened for the final series. The closing theme is an extension of that used for the introduction.
Opening/Closing credit sequence
The programme starts with a distinctive blue 2point4children logo overlaid on an exterior shot of the Porters' terraced house, whilst writer and principal actor credits appear over the succeeding footage. Series one and two features clips from Series one. Series three uses clips taken from more recent episodes, so did Series four. Series five saw a slight change to the format with the footage now taken from all previous four series, as opposed to the unseen episodes of series five. A new look was unveiled for series six with a reworking of the logo (now in 3D colourful letters) which fell randomly from the top of the frame and landed in the correct order at the bottom. The cast were shown dancing against a white backdrop with Belinda Lang taking centre stage literally. Cast and writer credits (featuring Clare Buckfield and John Pickard's names which weren't previously shown until the closing credits) were shown either side of Bill dancing, this new look continued into series seven.
The final, eighth series in 1999 saw a modification to this style, with the same principle of the falling colourful letters landing against a white backdrop but now featuring a line drawing of the Porter house with its colourful front door. These titles are shorter than previous series and featured no cast members. The principal-actor credits were shown at the beginning of each scene of the episode and appeared in the Futura typeface, as opposed to the former Roman-style serif font that debuted in episode one. The move to filming in digital widescreen for series eight was one reason that a change in titles was necessary.
For the closing credits, in series one to five the credits either flashed up on screen over a freeze frame of the final scene which gradually faded to black or scrolled along the bottom third of the frame from right to left (the latter usually reserved for Christmas specials). Series six-eight used a plain white background with the new colourful logo situated at the top of the frame and the credit list scrolling up the centre.
Although set in the fictitious Chepstow Road, Chiswick, most of the exterior scenes of the house and street for Series 1–5 were filmed on Duke Road in Chiswick. From Series 6 onwards these scenes were filmed on Meon Road in nearby Acton. Interiors were filmed at Television Centre, other than the pilot, which was recorded at BBC Pebble Mill's studio A, with design by Lynda Kettle. Some scenes for the episode "Seven Dials" (season 5 episode 5), which parodied the 1960s fantasy TV show The Prisoner, were filmed in Portmeirion, North Wales.