no! I will not tolerate diss
ing of Caroline Aherne
! But that's
another node ....
The Royle family are:
There is also a small collection of minor characters (next-door
neighbours etc) who come and go as required.
Now, far from the cast list being simply a bunch of
"Northern character actors" who all "play themselves", they're all among
the most respected and talented British actors of their respective
generations. They may not have had the instant "star quality" of
the soap stars whose lives are followed in intimate detail in the
tabloids, but they've made a career out of being able to act, as opposed
to simply having a pretty face.
But anyway, onto the TV show itself. The most amazing thing about the
programme is that it ever got made in the first place. To clarify for those
who might not be familiar with it, The Royle Family is simply the
extremely everyday story of a perfectly ordinary working class family
who do nothing more exciting than squabble over which TV programme to
Over 90% of the "action" takes place in the Royle's sitting room which
they chat to each other about what they've done that day. Using only
two or three static camera positions, no studio audience or
canned laughter and a script that could genuinely have come from any of
millions of households anywhere in the UK, most TV producers would
have run screaming from the idea saying it would never work. Fortunately
the BBC isn't (yet) completely dominated by the quest for ratings and
took a chance on the programme, which became an instant cult hit.
By the end of the first series the audience had doubled, despite it being
on the "minority" BBC2 channel. The critics wrote pages and pages
of analysis but more importantly, people who watched it talked about the
programme to their friends. Word-of-mouth viral marketing ... for a
TV show ... almost unheard of! Even those shows which did gain large
cult followings in a similar manner had tended to be deliberately made
to be a bit "odd" (Twin Peaks, X-Files etc).
Future seasons of the show (now just beginning a run of its third series)
were shown on the more mainstream BBC1 channel. Fortunately the
basic idea hasn't changed, it's still really a tap into a
stream of consciousness from a perfectly ordinary British family.
Even Roseanne -- which is probably the closest US television has come
to showing supposedly normal people doing normal things in a "big name"
TV show -- tended to veer towards sentimentality and moralism at
times. The Royle Family hasn't done that, and I'm still not 100% sure
exactly why it's so watchable. I suspect it wouldn't travel well outside of
Britain as many of the themes are so tied in to contemporary
British life that much of the beauty of the programme would be lost on a
foreign audience. I'd love to be proved wrong though.