The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.
Share this review on
Gutsy Northern drama - well, no actually, more like Beer Gutted Living Room Sadness, as Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne (nee Hook) create a comedy series which is as true to REAL LIFE as you can probably get in this day and age.
Aherne and Cash are brilliant comic actors (rather than comedians) from Manchester who were the brains behind Mrs Merton, but whose later creation is by far and away the biggest thing that either of them have ever done.
Just a side issue first, Aherne used to be married to Peter Hook, the bassist with the most miserable band in the history of rock, Joy Division. You could be forgiven for wondering how they ever got together with anyone from the band fronted by the suicidal Ian Curtis, but when you recognise that following the death of Curtis, JD re-emerged as New Order, a bunch of fun loving party animals, then it's maybe not such a shock. What is a shock, however, is that it was only with the arrival of lightness and fun that the Hook marriage should disintegrate. Still, that's life in the whacky world of showbiz...
Anyway, back to The Royle Family...
The Royles, I have to admit, is a bit of an acquired taste, although I acquired it long ago and adore it. It tells the tale of (you guessed it) the Royle Family, Jim and Barbara Royle and their 'children', Anthony and Deniece, although Deniece's hubby Dave and Barbara's mother, Nana, also get a look in. Nearly all of the action, if that's what you call it, takes place within six feet of the television in the Royles' living room. You see, this bunch is a goggle eyed, rough and ready gang of couch potatoes whose life revolves exclusively around doings on the box, and only rarely do they venture as far away as even the kitchen (normally when Anthony is ordered out to make a brew).
Many people feel this show is boring and demeaning, but I would venture to suggest that the 'life' enjoyed by the Royles is amazingly similar to 75% of families in this country. Just think about it. How is your living room furniture organised? I bet, almost certainly, that all the chairs are angled, not even discreetly to afford an excellent view of the one eyed monster in the corner and that the whole of family life is centred on the happenings therein.
Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnson play the mother and father, recreating their original screen marriage as the Grants, parents of wide boy Barry, from Brookside. Aherne plays Deniece, with Cash as Dave and Ralf Little as Anthony. Liz Smith is Nana. And I would challenge you to find a more impressive bunch of actors than this bunch, because they have Northern box watching life off to perfection, and I bet you all know at least one character like them.
Most of the attention is hugged by Tomlinson with his earthy habits and humour and preoccupation with matters below the belt. "I'm off for an Eartha Kitt," is one of his classic sayings as he retires with a paper to the (Not So) Little Boy's Room, alternatively known as a Tom Tit. He also advises upon his return, "I'd give it five minutes, if I were you." He is a lazy, good for nothing whom only a mother could love and his endless bullying and piss taking of Anthony, whom he constantly refers to as Lurch or Lurcio after the butler in The Addams Family, is positively sadistic.
However, it's both extremely true to life and very, very funny. And Tomlinson carries off the part with, I suppose the word is, aplomb.
Johnson is also superb as the put upon Barbara, a typical downtrodden, boring/bored housewife, while Aherne and Cash are not shaded out as the set in their ways young/old married couple whose life is not solely taken with staring at the TV - they occasionally get pissed as farts down the pub. Cash has created a supremely odd character in the slow witted, but likeable Dave, a Jim Royle in waiting although with less of the charisma. He's the one, when someone smells a particular canine excrement odor, who can always be relied upon to locate the offending article upon his sole.
It's also hard not to admire the performance of the previously unknown Ralf Little, who has gone on to appear in several other shows, such as Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, but has never been as good as he is here.
Sadly, The Royle Family gets most of its laughs from allowing us to peer snootily down our snouts at this farmyard rabble. We do so extremely warmly, however, because there's just a little of the Royles in each and every one of us, with the nearest example being the other dysfunctional family, The Simpsons, with whom there are a LOT of similarities, although Jim is a lot less lovable than Our Homer. Cash and Aherne go for the easy laugh a little too readily to make you fully comfortable with their approach, but their eye for detail and setting of scenes has to be admired.
Much of the Northern outlook on life is carried over from Mrs Merton, although the Royles are much more vivid and unpleasant than ever the homely Mertons hinted at. This bunch would definitely have been most unwelcome at your doorstep, particularly if they were planning to stay for a few days over Christmas.
However, you know that somewhere deep inside the ill fitting trousers and flabby bellies there beat hearts of gold, people who are the salt of the earth, who would never see their friends, neighbours and relatives go hungry. That is apart from the abysmal Jim, who sees the worst in everyone and has a deep seated loathing of his mother in law. His impatience with her regular visits and stop overs is mean spirited to say the least. However, take note of the transformation in this foul old man when Deniece is on her way to her wedding, or, shortly after, about to give birth.
This is a warm hearted and generous man, who has the deepest love for his family, although he'll be buggered if he's going to show it, at least not until he's visited the toilet.
PS Quotes from the scripts - as featured on http://www.badham1.freeserve.co.uk/royle.htm
JIM: THOSE FOREIGN HOLIDAYS ARE A SWIZZ. THEM BLOODY TRAVEL AGENTS ARE RIPPING EVERY BUGGER OFF AND MUGS LIKE HIM FALL FOR IT. THERE'S NOWT YOU CAN DO ABROAD THAT YOU CAN'T DO HERE.
BARB: WHAT ABOUT HAVING A GOOD TIME?
JIM: HAVING A GOOD TIME MY ARSE! THEY SPEND HALF THE BLOODY TIME ON THE KHAZI HAVING THE WILD SHITES.
JIM: THINKS THE BLOODY WORLD OF ME! TODAY SHE HAD A FAMILY SIZE BAG OF BLOODY REVELS AND DID SHE OFFER ME ONE? DID SHE SHITE! SHE SAT ON HER BIG FAT ARSE, ANNOUNCING EVERY ONE AS SHE PUT IT IN HER BIG FAT GOB. OOOH, COCONUT, AAAH, ORANGE. OOOO, MALT-BLOODY-TEASERS.
JIM RANTS ABOUT BARBS MENOPAUSE: THE TROUBLE WITH ME, LAD, IS I'M TOO EASY BLOODY GOING. SHE WALKS ALL OVER ME. I MEAN THE DAY SHE DOES WORK IN THE BAKERY IT CAN BE HALF SEVEN, QUARTER TO EIGHT BEFORE MY TEA'S READY. BUT I DON'T SAY NOTHING. I JUST GET ON WITH IT.
JIM: WHAT! MOST OF THESE FAMILIES ARE THICK AS PIGSHIT. LES DENNIS IS NO BLOODY BETTER, IF YOU PUT HIS BRAINS IN A BLOODY HAZELNUT THEY'D STILL RATTLE. HEY, REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN THEY SAID THEY'D ASKED A HUNDRED PEOPLE TO NAME SOMETHING GREEN . . . AND THE OLD WOMAN WHO WAS THE CONTESTANT SAID HER CARDIGAN.
BARB: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT . . . IT WAS GREEN?
JIM: HOW WOULD THE BLOODY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC KNOW THEY'D NEVER SEEN HER. DON'T BOTHER WRITING, DENISE, YOUR MOTHER, SHE'D MAKE A SHOW OF US.
DENISE (GETTING EMOTIONAL) EVERY TIME I CAME OUT OF THE TOILET SHE WAS ROUND HIM LIKE FLIES AROUND SHIT AND (TO DAVE) YOU'RE THE SHIT AND SHE'S NOT EVEN THE FLY COS SHE'S TOO FAT TO BE A FLY, SHE'S THE SHIT AS WELL, THAT'S WHAT YOU ARE, TWO SHOVELS OF SHIT . . . . AND THAT'S IT.