Seinfeld was always called “a show about nothing.” Well, The Royle Family tops that. It’s not only about nothing, but the family rarely leaves their living room. At least the characters on Seinfeld actually left the apartment and went out and did things. The Royle Family barely gets up off the couch.
Now, that doesn’t make this show boring. On the contrary. I find it quite hilarious, even if some of the comedy is subtle.
The Royles are a working class Manchester family living in a council house. “Working class” is just a description of their lifestyle because only matriarch Barbara Royle actually works. When she’s not working part-time at the local bakery, she joins her husband, Jim, two grown children, Denise and Antony, and Denise’s fiancée, Dave, on the couch chain smoking and watching telly. You definitely won’t mistake them for Britain’s Royal Family.
Sue Johnston plays Barbara Royle. This was the first show I saw her in, so I thought she mainly did comedy. Was I surprised when I then saw her on Waking the Dead, a serious drama! Barbara is always interested in what everyone had for dinner, or tea as it’s called. Have you had your tea? What did you have? She’s fascinated by what others have for their evening meal.
Jim, the lazy, grouchy king of the Royle Family, hardly ever leaves his throne in the living room (unless it’s to visit the other “throne” in the house). He gripes about the cost of everything from the phone bill (Who do we know in Aberdeen?) to loo roll. And I think he’s wearing the same shirt and jeans throughout the entire series.
The eldest Royle child is Denise. Between cigarettes, she’s planning her wedding to Dave Best, a part-time DJ and furniture mover. In the second season, Denise is pregnant. The whole time she’s complaining that she’ll be too busy to take care of the baby, so she’s looking for people to do it for her. Nobody is sure what she’ll be busy doing because Denise doesn’t have a job. She once said, “I’ve been so busy I’ve hardly had time to smoke.”
And then there’s poor Antony, the youngest Royle. He’s pretty much the only one who gets up off his butt, but only because he’s the one who has to do everything. Antony, answer the door. Antony, answer the phone. Antony, go buy cigarettes. Do the dishes. Make us a brew. Take out the bin. At least he’s able to get out of the house once in a while.
Amongst the overflowing ashtrays, piles of candy bar wrappers and tea-stained cups is a family that’s probably more like us than we’d like to admit. Have you ever tried to guess the prices of items on the Antiques Roadshow? And placed bets on who was the closest? Yes, we all have. But certainly nobody could smoke as much as the Royle Family and live to tell about it!
Ricky Tomlinson – Jim Royle
Sue Johnston – Barbara Royle
Caroline Aherne – Denise Royle
Ralf Little – Antony Royle
Craig Cash – Dave Best
Liz Smith – Norma “Nana” Speakman
Total Seasons: 3 (20 episodes plus 4 specials)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 1998–2000, 2006-2010
Viewer Discretion: Language