Home Television Comedy Royle Family, The

Royle Family, The

1 9 9 8 – 2 0 0 0 (UK)
18 x 30 minute episodes, 2 x specials
2 0 0 6 (UK)
1 x 60 minute episode
2 0 0 8 (UK)
1 x 60 minute episode
2 0 0 9 (UK)
1 x 60 minute episode
2 0 1 0 (UK)
1 x 60 minute episode
2 0 1 2  (UK)
1 x 45 minute episode

The Royles are a working-class family living in Manchester. Most evenings, the family gather around the TV set, occasionally joined by other relatives and friends.

Father Jim (Ricky Tomlinson) is unemployed. He is intelligent but bitter and idle, berating his poor teenage son Anthony (Ralf Little) to put the kettle on when he never leaves his own armchair.

Mother Barbara (Sue Johnston) works in a bakery. She is nice but downtrodden, not least by her demanding daughter Denise (Caroline Aherne), who has never held down a job, nags husband Dave (Craig Cash) and in the third series, controversially, neglects her baby.

The family’s quirks are brought into relief by deftly drawn supporting characters, particularly Barbara’s wily but repetitive mother Norma (Liz Smith) and Denise’s put-upon friend Cheryl (Jessica Stevenson).

The Royle Family debuted on BBC Two on 14 September 1998 and restored public and critical confidence in the sitcom in the UK and changed the direction of the genre. The show’s popular success ensured that by 2000 most of the nation were familiar with Jim Royle’s characteristic cry, “My Arse!”

Very little actually happens in the show beyond the everyday rhythms of life: TV, dinner, cups of tea and the occasional marriage or birth. Instead of witty one-liners and funny plots, the jokes are those that people in a family would make about each other. The humour lies in recognition.

Caroline Aherne (who also wrote the series with Craig Cash) found fame hard to deal with and ended the show at the height of its success in 2000. It returned for several specials over the years. Aherne died of lung cancer in 2016 at the age of 52.

Denise Royle/Best
Caroline Aherne
Barbara Royle
Sue Johnston
Jim Royle
Ricky Tomlinson
Anthony Royle
Ralf Little
Dave Best
Craig Cash
Norma Speakman
Liz Smith
Geoffrey Hughes
Cheryl Carroll
Jessica Stevenson
Mary Carroll
Doreen Keogh
Joe Carroll
Peter Martin