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Following the success of 2010's "Joe's Crackers", the BBC immediately commissioned a follow-up Christmas special for 2011, though it had to be pulled at the last minute because Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash felt that it would be too rushed and damage the show's reputation. It was then thought the show would return in April 2012, with a special Easter episode, though again this failed to materialise and it wasn't until December 2012 that "Barbara's Old Ring" aired, almost a year and a half after it had been commissioned. See more »
If you grew up in a blue-collar home, you've been here before...
When "The Royle Family" first started, I have to admit I wasn't all that blown away by it. A slobbish Northern family doing nothing except watch TV and make inane, uncultured comments. It seemed to me that the educated middle class were having a cheap laugh at the expense of the uneducated working class. But I was wrong. It's actually more a case of the educated middle class laughing at the educated middle class via a working class medium. Hallelujah, I've seen the light!
Patience and repeated viewing has demonstrated to me that this is an outstanding sitcom, and is certainly up there among the best in British comedy history. Well, I call it a sitcom, but "The Royle Family" really goes beyond that. There's no audience laugh-track, no quickfire one-liners, no incidental music (aside from the plaintive Oasis song on the opening and closing titles) and not really much in the way of plot structure. It's almost like a perpetual fly-on-the-wall documentary, or half-hour snippets of Ken Loach-type gritty social realism.
This is no cosy, middle class sitcom with French windows, an immaculate living room, a fussy housewife and the husband's boss coming to dinner. Like it or not, this is British family life - disordered chaos, petty arguments, bad language, dinner on the sofa, exhausted mothers and farting fathers. It's a world of unspoken, non-PC clichés that only those who have lived through it could possibly know about. "The Royle Family" is as realistic as comedy gets. I know, because this is my family, and every other blue-collar family I've ever encountered. This is exactly what I left home to escape from!
Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash have created a minor work of genius, helped by a great ensemble cast (themselves included). The characters, with the help of their brilliant portrayals, are infinitely more complex and sophisticated than they at first appear. There is individuality, subtlety and depth in every one of them, not to mention breathtaking accuracy. The put-upon mother, slobbish father, manipulative eldest daughter and slave-for-hire youngest son were fixtures in every family I knew when I was growing up, and can only assume still are. Social commentary, through the brutally honest mouths of the Royles, doesn't get any sharper.
Yet, despite the proletariat rough-and-readiness, there is also a certain reassuring warmth in there - an ingredient sadly missing from many real families. Despite everything, this is a close-knit, supportive family unit. It just takes a quiet grunt from Jim Royle, wallowing in the sanctuary of his armchair, to let the audience know that this is a man who adores his family, however dull and ignorant they may be. And dull and ignorant they assuredly are.
If you like your comedy light and sugary, this isn't for you. If you like it gritty and black as coal, enjoy. You won't be able to get enough.
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