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The Royle Family

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First episode date
14 September 1998


Final episode date
27 November 2000

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Created by
Caroline AherneCraig Cash

Written by
Caroline AherneCraig CashHenry Normal (1998)Carmel Morgan (1999)Phil Mealey (2006–2012)

Directed by
Mark MylodSteve BendelackCaroline Aherne

Ricky TomlinsonSue JohnstonCaroline AherneRalf LittleCraig CashLiz SmithJessica HynesPeter MartinDoreen KeoghGeoffrey HughesAndrew WhymentSheridan Smith

Opening theme

Family argument the royle family xmas bbc comedy

The Royle Family was a British television sitcom produced by ITV Studios for the BBC, which ran for three series from 1998 to 2000, and specials from 2006 to 2012. It centres on the lives of a scruffy television-fixated Manchester family, the Royles, comprising family patriarch Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson), his wife Barbara (Sue Johnston), their daughter Denise (Caroline Aherne), their son Antony (Ralf Little) and Denise's fiancé (later husband) David (Craig Cash).


The series features simple production values and a stereotypical portrayal of low income family life at the turn of the millennium. It therefore has something in common with kitchen sink drama. Almost all of the episodes take place in the Royles' home, largely in the telly-centric living room, with the humour derived from the conversations held therein. Aherne and Cash co-wrote every episode, along with Henry Normal (series one), Carmel Morgan (series two), and Phil Mealey (five Christmas specials). A sixth special episode was set to be written but writer and actress who played Denise, Caroline Aherne died on 2 July 2016 effectively ending the series.

In a list of the 100 greatest British television programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000 and voted on by industry professionals, The Royle Family was placed 31st. In a 2004 poll to find Britain's best sitcom, The Royle Family was placed 19th. The series has also won several BAFTA awards.

Little david the royle family xmas bbc comedy


Most episodes appear to take place in real time and all action takes place within the Royles' council house home. (The passage of time as indicated by the changing programmes on the Royles' TV sometimes suggests that the action has been compressed.)

Unlike most UK sitcoms of the time, the show was filmed in 16 mm film using the single camera production style, instead of the multiple-camera production style, and was not filmed with a live audience. The producer Glenn Wilhide is on record as saying, "It was a big fight to make sure it had no laughter track".

The one-off specials take a more traditional sitcom structure, though many scenes still run longer than standard in line with the 'real time' nature of the original series. The 2006 special episode "The Queen Of Sheba" was partly set in a hospital. Its narrative moves forward in time in a more typical manner. 2008's Christmas special, "The New Sofa", is set over two days. In it the characters spend Christmas Eve at the Royle household in the traditional manner (in front of the television), followed by Christmas Day at Dave and Denise's. Much of the 2009 Christmas special takes place in a caravan at a holiday park. It also features intermediate scenes of Dave driving Twiggy's car there. All of 2010 and 2012's Christmas special takes place at the Royles' house. There were lots of rumours if it would return after the 2012 special. In 2016 Tomlinson said that there would probably be one that year but Aherne died in July 2016, thereby effectively ending any hopes of a return for the show.

The show's theme song is "Half the World Away" by Oasis. When Aherne died, ex Oasis member Noel Gallagher performed a tribute to Aherne by playing it during a concert in America.


The Royle Family have broadcast three series between 1998 and 2000, each consisting of 6 episodes. A Christmas special followed the second series in 1999, while another Christmas special followed the third series in 2000. After which, Ahern and Cash decided not to continue with a new series; however, the it did continue in the form of a number of specials, beginning with "The Queen of Sheba", which broadcast in 2006 to mark the return of the show. A further four Christmas specials were included between 2008 and 2012. The final episode, "Barbara's Old Ring", was screened on Christmas Day 2012. There are a total of 25 episodes of The Royal Family.


  • Ricky Tomlinson as James Randolph "Jim" Royle
  • Misanthropic, cynical and negligent, Jim is a slob who spends his days in his armchair watching the television and doing as little as possible. Jim has an ill-temper, and regularly roasts his family, in particular Antony and his mother-in-law Norma, when not slamming celebrities on television. Jim's outbursts are often accompanied by his mocking catchphrase, "my arse!" He is also a miser and enjoys announcing his visits to the lavatory, though on occasions shows a more patient side, especially in moments when his family is in serious trouble.
  • Sue Johnston as Barbara Royle (née Speakman)
  • Barbara is the long suffering wife of Jim. Barbara lives for her family, though her caring nature is often exploited by her selfish husband and daughter, who let her do almost everything for them. She is often shown to be more friendly, polite, compassionate and level-headed than her husband. Barbara worked part time at a bakery, and for a time was the only member of the family to have a job. The strain caused her to snap during series 2 and she stormed out. She and Denise chain smoke. Johnston and Tomlinson previously played a married couple, Sheila and Bobby Grant, in Liverpool based soap Brookside.
  • Caroline Aherne as Denise Best (née Royle)
  • The only daughter of Jim and Barbara, Denise is extremely lethargic and pretentious. Before she met Dave, Denise was engaged to a man named Stewart although she called off the engagement. She married Dave in the first series, and they have two children, Baby David and Norma, though she rarely parents her children, instead passing duties on to everyone else. Jim also used to mock her for only serving her husband rudimentary dinners such as Dairylea cheese spread on toast and spaghetti hoops. Denise is known for pulling right back on a cigarette. She and Barbara love smoking and often fill the ash tray. Denise is usually nasty to her younger brother Antony, regularly leaving him to babysit her children and, along with her father forcing him to making cups of tea for the family.
  • Ralf Little as Antony James Royle (1998–2000, 2006–2010)
  • Antony is the son of Jim and Barbara, and generally treated as a dogsbody by the family, ordered to do menial tasks such as answering the door, making cups of tea and babysitting Dave and Denise's children. He is the only member of the family (other than Barbara) who actually does any work in the house or otherwise. He is often mocked by Jim, Denise and Dave and is surprised when in one episode Denise sticks up for him followed by Jim showing him a great deal of support. Although originally unemployed with little prospects, it was revealed in the 2006 special that Antony had gone on to become a successful businessman and no longer lives in Manchester. He gets engaged to girlfriend Emma after she falls pregnant and they have a son named Lewis, but before the 2006 special they have separated and Antony has recently starting dating a girl named Sarah. In 2009 he is in a relationship with Saskia, who becomes pregnant in early 2010 and goes into labour on Christmas day after he has proposed.
  • Craig Cash as David "Dave" Best
  • Denise's boyfriend and later husband, Dave is initially depicted as a 'jack the lad' cheeky chappy and later portrayed as a dim-witted loafer. He is shown to be very kind and laid-back, often putting up with Denise's slacker lifestyle. He is often Jim's sidekick and he takes Jim's side when he is arguing with Barbara or Denise. Denise often takes advantage of Dave, leaving him to change nappies and care to their children when they get upset. Denise and Dave announced that she was pregnant, and she later gave birth to baby David, and later in the series, Denise announced she was pregnant again and she later had a baby girl, whom she called Norma after Barbara's mother. Dave previously dated Denise's enemy, Beverly Macca, and this is often brought up by Jim to annoy Denise. In earlier episodes, Dave's portrayed as being no less intelligent than other members of the family, however as the series progresses he becomes more ignorant.


  • Liz Smith as Norma Jean Speakman (Nana) (1998–2000, 2006)
  • Barbara's demanding elderly mother, called "Nana" by Denise and Antony. Jim and Norma had a highly bitter feud, as Jim often calls her names such as a "greedy old cow" when she didn't share her Revels with him. Norma often looks for sympathy from her family, repeating that she is the only living elderly woman in her block of flats, and she often hints to move in with the Royles. When her best friend Elsie dies, Jim and Norma argue because Norma goes from mourning to talking about Elsie's television and clothes. Norma eventually moved in with the Royles when her health rapidly declined, and she died in 2006 at the age of 90. When she died, Jim felt extremely remorseful because of how he feuded with Norma. Jim decided in a mark of respect to put her ashes on top of the television, a place where she will always be remembered.
  • Jessica Hynes as Cheryl Carroll (1998–2000, 2006–2010)
  • The daughter of Joe and Mary, and the best friend of Denise. Cheryl lives next door to the Royles and constantly battles with her weight, going from one unsuccessful diet to the next. Jim, Dave and Antony often ridicule her weight behind her back. She enjoys looking after Denise's children, a situation Denise takes advantage of. Cheryl is portrayed as unlucky in love, though she has a relationship with Twiggy between the 2006 and 2008 episodes, before leaving him for a man with a burger van. At Christmas 2010, Cheryl revealed she had been dating a homeless person called "Spamhead" who stole her father's savings before leaving her.
  • Doreen Keogh as Mary Carroll (1998–2000, 2006)
  • Mary lives next door to the Royles with her husband Joe and daughter Cheryl. She hails from Ireland and is portrayed as a talkative busybody (in direct contrast to her husband). She last appears in the 2006 special, and by Christmas 2009 her health has deteriorated and she suffers from severe incontinence. By the 2010 Christmas special Mary had died.
  • Peter Martin as Joe Carroll (1998–2000, 2006–2012)
  • Joe is the husband of Mary and father of Cheryl. Joe is very shy, a regular source of mocking by Jim and Antony, though after a few drinks he generally becomes more sociable, and has on a couple of occasions proven to be a talented singer. He also appears to be a lot more confident and happy in Mary's absence. After Mary's death he carries her ashes around with him and talks of her constantly, and decides to move house before Cheryl convinces him to remain.
  • Geoffrey Hughes as Twiggy (1998–2000, 2006–2008)
  • Twiggy is a longtime family friend of the Royles, and regularly visits, usually with rip-off materials or stolen goods to sell on. He has been in prison, and fathered at least two sons, and later dated Cheryl, though the relationship didn't last. Twiggy sees prison as a holiday and describes it as 'recharging the old batteries'. Twiggy's criminal tendencies become more serious as the series progresses, at first he sells knock-offs then in The New Sofa, he appears at Denise's house with several half-empty spirit bottles (with optics still attached), presumably stolen from the local pub, he nonchalantly claims he could have got more if the dog hadn't started barking. Twiggy's last appearance was in the 2008 Christmas special as Hughes retired in 2010 and died in 2012.
  • Andrew Whyment as Darren Sinclair-Jones (1999–2000)
  • Darren is friends with Antony in series 2 and 3. Darren is portrayed to be dull, uneducated and of a apathetic demeanour. Like Twiggy, Darren is light-fingered and has been sacked from every job he's had for stealing. His brothers are all in prison, his father is an alcoholic who never leaves the pub and his mother (when not in hospital with her failing health) lives with Darren in a house where the bailiffs have taken all the furniture. During Christmas 2000, Antony and Emma ask Darren to be godfather to their unborn child.
  • Sheridan Smith as Emma Kavanagh (1999–2000)
  • Emma is Antony's first girlfriend. She first appears in the series 2 finale, after being mentioned several times in earlier episodes. Emma comes from a wealthy family, but gets on well with the Royles. In the series 3 finale, Antony announces his engagement to Emma, which leads Jim and Barbara to assume that Emma is pregnant. In the 2000 Christmas special, Emma's arrogant parents, Roger and Valerie, meet Jim and Barbara for the first time. Emma does not appear in the 2006 special, by which time she has separated from Antony. Antony and Emma continue to share custody of their son, Lewis, who appears in the 2006 special.
  • Joanne Froggatt as Saskia (2010)
  • Saskia is the girlfriend of Antony, who is mentioned in the 2009 Christmas special and first appears at Christmas 2010. She is an A&E nurse and is heavily pregnant when she first appears. The Royles have a high level of interest in Saskia and have no respect for her privacy; for example, they read her diary and look through her clothes. In 2009 she did not wish to go to the Royles' household due to Jim's behaviour on a previous visit. Antony proposed to Saskia on Christmas Day 2010, and later she goes into labour a month early.

    1998–2000: Original run

    The first series aired on BBC Two in 1998, quickly gaining a following such that it was moved to BBC One for the second series in 1999, when it became even more popular. A Christmas special appeared in 1999, followed by a third series and another Christmas special in 2000.

    After Aherne announced that she would not write or star in any more episodes, Ricky Tomlinson also pulled out to ensure the show's end. However, on 7 April 2006, the BBC announced that Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash were to write a script for a one-off special, which was broadcast on 29 October 2006. The episode received widespread critical acclaim, having been watched by over 8 million viewers.

    Two volumes of scripts from the series have been published: The Royle Family The Scripts: Series 1 by Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash, and Henry Normal. London: Granada Media/Andre Deutsch, 1999, and The Royle Family The Scripts: Series 2 by Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash, and Carmel Morgan. London: Granada Media, 2000.

    2006–2012: Specials

    "The Queen of Sheba" takes place six years after the events of the last series and features Nana's declining health and death. It won the 'Best Sitcom' award at the 2007 BAFTAs, and won the Royal Television Society award for 'Best Situation Comedy & Comedy Drama'. Liz Smith's performance won her the 'Best TV Comedy Actress' award at the National Television Awards and was BAFTA nominated.

    The 2008 Christmas special, entitled "The New Sofa" was the first that took place mainly outside of the Royles' house. It began at the Royles', but moved to the Bests' house early on. Ralf Little did not appear in this episode, but his character is referenced. The hour-long special aired on Christmas Day 2008, and attracted 10.6 million viewers, making it the 5th most watched show on Christmas Day and the 5th most watched for the entire week ending 28 December 2008.

    The Royle Family returned as part of Comic Relief, on 13 March 2009. It also marked the return of Ralf Little as Antony, who joined Dave, Denise, Jim and Barbara in the one-off mini episode.

    Another Christmas special, 'The Golden Egg Cup', was aired on 25 December 2009 at 9:00pm on BBC One and also in HD on the BBC HD channel. The episode was the most watched show on TV on Christmas Day and for the entire week ending 26 December 2009, attracting an audience of 11.74 million viewers and the highest rating episode of The Royle Family.

    In November 2010 Gold broadcast a two-hour episode called "Behind The Sofa", with interviews from the cast and crew celebrating the show's return in 2006. Another show entitled "Royle Family Portraits" was aired on Gold on Wednesday 17 November. Another Christmas special entitled "Joe's Crackers" was aired on 25 December 2010 on BBC One and BBC HD. The ratings for the BBC One transmission were 11.29 million viewers, making it the fourth most watched programme of Christmas Day and the sixth most watched for the entire week ending 26 December 2010.

    A further Christmas special was planned for 2011, but on 5 November the Sun reported that Aherne and Cash had been unable to complete a script in time for filming. Sue Johnston claimed, on The One Show, that the special had been postponed rather than scrapped, and that the reason behind the delay was due to Ralf Little and Craig Cash's work on The Cafe proving more time consuming than initially thought. Johnston also stated that it might not necessarily be made as a Christmas special, but may air earlier in the year.

    In an interview with The Sun in August 2012, Sue Johnston confirmed that there would be a Christmas special that year, saying that 'it's definitely happening this year'. The special titled "Barbaras Old Ring" aired on 25 December 2012. The broadcast was the 3rd most popular programme on Christmas Day, achieving a rating of 9.90 million viewers and was the 6th most watched programme for the week ending December 30 across all UK TV channels.

    Relation to other works

    The subsequent sitcom Early Doors was also written by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey and has a similar production style and setting to The Royle Family. Cash also appears in Early Doors.

    A frequent pastime for the family is watching the BBC series Antiques Roadshow and betting on the outcome of valuations.

    In several episodes, the family are seen watching Coronation Street, a long-running Northern-based soap opera, in which Sue Johnston, Doreen Keogh, Geoffrey Hughes and Andrew Whyment have all played regular characters. Guest actors Sally Lindsay (Michelle, Twiggy's girlfriend), Sharon Duce (Valerie, Emma's Mother), Steve Huison (Derek, Cheryl's Boyfriend) Helen Fraser (Jocelyn Best, Dave's Mother) and Joanne Froggatt (Saskia, Anthony's fiance) have also appeared in the programme.

    Sue Johnston and Joanne Froggatt would work together once again on the UK period drama, Downton Abbey, both as lady's maids, Johnston playing Gladys Denker, the lady's maid of Maggie Smith's character, and Froggatt playing Anna Smith Bates, the lady's maid of Michelle Dockery's character.

    Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash have both narrated and Cash continues to narrate the Channel 4 series Gogglebox, which, like The Royle Family, features people watching TV.


    The Royle Family Wikipedia

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