Review: Outmatched 1×1 (US: Fox)


In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30/7:30c, Fox
In the UK: Not yet acquired

The trouble with not being a genius – at least if you’re a writer writing about genius – is by definition, you’re not smart enough to work out what it must be like. Sherlock Holmes can imagine himself into the minds of lesser people; lesser people cannot imagine the thoughts of Sherlock Holmes.

Hence Elementary.

Interestingly, what seems to happen as a result is that the lesser people – let’s call them writers – imagine there must be a fundamental problem with the genius that renders them in some way lesser to the writers. The writers become the geniuses, as do their audiences.

This common failure of imagination usually manifests itself in the idea of inferior social understanding. Gosh, smart people must be really bad with other people who aren’t as smart as them, hey? Men, women, boys, girls – they may know one end of a microscope from another but can they tell when someone’s upset with them? No, of course not. Not like us regular, writer types.

Witness Numb3rs and Scorpion, for example. And now Outmatched.

Smart is so stupid

Outmatched‘s interesting but misused concept is that a regular couple in Atlantic City – American Pie‘s Jason Biggs and Psych‘s Maggie Lawson – have a gaggle of genius children (as well as one regular child). Goodie – gifted children?

Not really. Apparently, it’s a nightmare because the kids are always competing with one another to see who’s the smartest, they can easily outsmart their parents and they’ll sometimes try and take their parent’s blood while their sleeping for experiments.

Sounds more like sociopaths than children with a gift for gastronomical science, as the show suggests. Did no one else watch Head of the Class when they were growing up?

Social stupidity

The first episode is our introduction to the family, including their unnuanced ‘genius’ children, as the parents learn their latest child is a genius. Largely, the jokes are about how stupid the parents are, while the plot is more concerned with how socially lacking they are.

This is the sort of the thing that stems from the bottom end of the writers gene pool: “How could we not know when our mother’s birthday is?” queries eldest daughter.

Good question. You’re a genius. You’ve celebrated it every year before then, presumably. How come you can’t remember it now?

Oh yes, because it’s the writers who are the dumb ones. Or think the audience are.

I’m having a Richard Jeni moment again.

It’s not your show

Lawson and Biggs do their best with their self-pitying jokes and their constant ‘war’ with their children for dominance. They’re not helped by the presence of a ‘live studio audience’, removing any real hint of subtlety from proceedings.

But there’s nothing really there to work with. Sure, it’s a sitcom, but you can still have smart kids doing smart things that baffle their parents, without having to resort to the standard clichés. Be original, guys.

All I can say is that if you want to do genius kid comedies, either stick with reruns of Head of the Class or even It’s Your Move.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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