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Series / The Royle Family

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Back row: Antony, Denise, Dave. Front row: Barbara, Jim, Nana
The Royle Family is an award-winning British sitcom. Famously minimalistic, the show almost entirely takes place in the house of the Royle family, usually in the living room in front of the television. The show lacks any form of laughter track and actual gags are rare, most of the humour instead coming from the characters themselves: Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson), cynical and sarcastic couch potato; Barbara (Sue Johnston), his hard-working and long-suffering wife; Denise (Caroline Aherne), their spoiled and lazy daughter; Antony (Ralf Little), their extremely put-upon son; Dave Best (Craig Cash), Denise's dim-witted but well-meaning fiancé; Nana (Liz Smith), Barbara's talkative elderly mother; and next door neighbours Joe (Peter Martin), who's very boring; Mary (Doreen Keogh), who's a bit gone in the head; Cheryl (Jessica Hynes), who's always gaining weight; Darren (Andrew Whyment), Anthony's criminal friend and Twiggy (Geoffrey Hughes), Jim's criminal friend.

The show gets most of its laughs through the various characters interactions with each other, often mirroring real English families extremely well. The writers, Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne, also play the couple Dave and Denise.

The show ran for three seasons from 1998-2000. A further five Christmas specials aired between 2006 and 2012. Another special was planned for Christmas 2016, but further episodes have been ruled out following Caroline Aherne's death in July 2016.

Came 19th in Britains Best Sitcom.

Not to be confused with The Royal Family, a short-lived American sitcom starring Redd Foxx.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Antony and Emma. The series ended in 2000 with them engaged and Emma pregnant, but when the show returned in 2006 Emma had vanished and was never mentioned again.
  • The Alcoholic: Most of the family are borderline. The alcohol flows in nearly every episode. Played for Laughs with Nana:
    Nana: I don't drink at all, me, just a bottle of stout of a night, and a sherry at Christmas.
    Antony: What about a whisky at New Year, Nana?
    Nana: Oh aye, a whisky at New Year, a sherry at Christmas and a bottle of stout.
    Jim: You'll be having champagne at the wedding.
  • All Take and No Give: Jim and Barbara's marriage.
  • And a Diet Coke: Cheryl orders one with fish and chips. However, Anthony phones to say the shop is out of diet coke, so she just has the fish and chips.
  • Aside Glance: Much humour comes from Jim's reaction from when people say stupid, weird, or otherwise unusual things. Usually this will be from Dave, Denise, or one of the next door neighbours.
  • Away in a Manger: The season 2 Christmas Episode
  • Awful Wedded Life: Barbara has had a life of drudgery, doing all the cooking and cleaning chores, with an obnoxious, work-shy husband who rarely lifts a finger to help. They do seem to genuinely care for each other though, and share some tender moments.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Nana holds on just long enough to see the birth of Denise's child before her condition worsens and she dies at the hospital.
  • Bottle Episode: Every episode in the first three series is set entirely in the Royles' household, and primarily in their living room. The big events in their lives, like Denise and Dave's wedding and the birth of their children, happen off screen. This changes in the later special episodes, when the Royles are seen outside their home.
  • Bread Milk Eggs Squick: Nana has just taken a few perishables from her late friend Elsie's fridge:
    Nana: It was just a packet of fish fingers, two chops and, er, six bottles of Guinness.
  • Butt-Monkey: Antony
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: The entire family. As soon as one tells another something in confidence, it won't take long for the rest to find out.
  • Cartwright Curse: Cheryl's doomed attempts to find a boyfriend.
  • Catchphrase: Jim's " arse".
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • In the 1999 Christmas Special, Nana asks what time The Vicar of Dibley is on. Liz Smith, the actor who played Nana, also played Letitia Cropley in the show.
    • Liz Smith (Nana), Ricky Tomlinson (Jim), Ralf Little (Antony), Sheridan Smith (Emma), John Henshaw (Roger) and Sharon Duce (Valerie) all appeared in The Bill, another show watched by Nana.
    • Nana watches Heartbeat, which featured Geoffrey Hughes, who played Twiggy in The Royle Family.
  • Christmas Episode: Though only two of the Christmas specials take place at Christmas.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Emma, despite being Anthony's wife-to-be and mother of his child, simply disappeared after the second Christmas Special with no explanation. Anthony's friend Darren also vanished around the same time.
  • Coitus Interruptus: Jim and Barbara are interrupted when Jim suffers a Potty Emergency thanks to Dave Sr's rhubarb wine.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Barbara, Denise and Dave in particular, usually leading to an exasperated Aside Glance from Jim.
  • The Couch: usually inhabited by Barbara, Dave and/or Denise, and occasionally Nana.
  • Creator Cameo: Phil Mealey, who co-wrote the last five episodes with Aherne and Cash, plays one of Cheryl's dates (Solomon) in "The Queen of Sheba".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jim
  • Epunymous Title: It's a play on "The Royal Family" starring a family with the shared surname of Royle.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Inverted by Denise, who gives Dave rudimentary dinners like Dairylea on toast and spaghetti hoops. Initially, it's not clear if she genuinely cannot cook or is just too lazy to bother, but when she does make the effort to cook Christmas dinner in "The New Sofa", it ends in disaster. They end up eating carrot crush and gravy.
  • Gargle Blaster: The "tropical punch". Dave's dad's rhubarb wine.
  • The Ghost:
    • Dave's ex Beverly Macker. Apparently she Really Gets Around too.
    • Dave's parents. We finally see them in "The New Sofa".
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Surprisingly, Jim.
    (After Barbara shares out chocolate fingers that Jim wanted)
    Jim: Finger, my arse.
    Barbara: Ooh!
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Jim can sing and play the banjo.
    • Antony becomes a successful businessman.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Jim is a more subtle example of this, especially towards Anthony. It is also heavily implied through dialogue that Denise is incredibly negligent to her kids.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Anytime Jim calls out anyone else for being lazy.
    • Denise is also prone to this, only being marginally better than Jim. They naturally exchange insults over each other's selfish, idle and obnoxious habits on a regular basis.
    • Jim and Twiggy, neither of whom is especially trim, commenting on Cheryl being overweight.
    • Nana is a massive culprit for this one (especially when alcohol is mentioned).
  • I've Heard of That — What Is It?:
    Barbara: I'd love liposuction.
    Denise: I'd love liposuction.
    Nana: So would I. (Beat). What is it?
  • Jar Potty: Jim uses an empty cider bottle when he gets caught short in the car. He then throws it out of the window.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jim will forever condemn everyone and everything as a swizz, too expensive, or just plain stupid. But when he knows he needs to say something (usually when it's his own fault), he will quietly reassure said character that he does indeed love them, and is there for Denise at her wedding and child's birth, and for Barbara at her mother's funeral. Although in the recent Christmas specials he seems to have moved firmly into Jerkass territory, saying cruel and spiteful things seemingly because the show demands it.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama
  • Limited Wardrobe: Jim almost always wears the same yellow t-shirt and jeans.
  • Lost My Appetite: Everyone loses theirs when they see what Dave and Denise have done to the turkey.
  • My Local: The Feathers. There's also the Pear Tree, although the beer in there once gave Dave a Potty Emergency.
  • Nobody Poops:
    • Jim loudly announces his visits to the toilet.
    • Nana is also prone to talking about her bowel movements.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws:
    • Jim and Norma feel this way about each other.
    • Emma's parents, particularly her dad Roger, who infuriates Jim with his boasting.
    • Inverted with Dave's parents. While Dave's dad is a little eccentric, they're both quite pleasant people. Jim still doesn't like them though.
    • Saskia clearly regards Jim as one of these.
  • Offscreen Romance: Twiggy and Cheryl. They also have an Off Screen Break Up.
  • One-Shot Character: P.J. He's an elderly man who shows up at the party after Baby David's christening, with no indication of who he is or what his connection is to the Royles (though he does get a Remember the New Guy? from a few of them). He turned up again at Nana's wake, and after that was never seen or heard from again.
  • One-Steve Limit: Dave and Denise call their son David. Dave's dad is also called David, and so was his dad. It's sort of a tradition.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Penny pinching patriarch Jim Royle will never miss an opportunity to complain at his mother-in-law or save money. So what does he say to his wife Barbara at her Nana's funeral? "I'd give all the money in the world to have one last drink with her." And when he wins £100 on a scratch card, hides the fact from Barbara, and seems to spend a little too much money out drinking, it looks to us and Barbara that Jim is being a selfish miser again. But come to Christmas Day, just after Barbara shouts at him for hiding the money in front of the whole family, she finds that Jim had bought her a new wedding ring to replace the one she lost a few months back.
  • Oop North: Manchester
  • Orphaned Punchline: Jim delivers one:
    Jim: He said, "I’ll take half a Viagra to stop pissing on my shoes!"
  • Properly Paranoid: Saskia locks her diary and hides the key in a different drawer. With good reason, as it turns out, as Jim, Barbara and Denise have all been reading it.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Mary was not seen after the 2006 Christmas special, and was said to be housebound with severe incontinence. By the 2010 special, she had passed away.
    • Dave and Denise's kids in the last few Christmas specials. They usually mention that they're being babysat by someone.
  • The Quiet One: Joe, though he does get more talkative after a few drinks.
  • Real Time: Used in most episodes, with the exceptions of some of the specials.
  • Retcon: In early series Barbara and Jim are said to have been together for 26/27 years. But in "The Golden Egg Cup" they celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
  • Running Gag: "Have you had your tea?"
  • Seinfeldian Conversation
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Barbara and Denise both chain smoke, and it isn't glamorous.
  • Story Arc: The first series leads up to Denise and Dave's wedding. The second leads up to the birth of their baby. The third ends with Antony getting engaged. The 2006 special ends with Nana's death. The later Christmas specials tended to be wackier self-contained adventures, like the Royles spending a week in a caravan, and Joe going on a series of dates.
  • This Is My Chair:
    • Jim always sits in his armchair in front of the TV.
    • Anthony often has the other armchair.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Dave was not the brightest spark to begin with, but in later episodes, he is portrayed as an utter moron.
  • Vacation Episode: "The Golden Egg Cup", in which Jim, Barbara, Denise and Dave go on holiday to Wales.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The entire family. They spend most of their time bickering and making jibes at each other. But on times such as Denise's wedding or Norma's wake, they'll show that they really do love each other just like a family.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jim always puts Anthony down, but when he knows he's gone too far he promises he'll be there if his son needs him.