THE ROYLE FAMILY: ONE OF BRITAIN’S BEST SITCOMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

roylefamily christmas

THE ROYLE FAMILY. (1998-2000 and 2006-2012.) STARRING CAROLINE AHERNE, CRAIG CASH, SUE JOHNSTON, RICKY TOMLINSON, RALF LITTLE, LIZ SMITH, DOREEN KEOGH, PETER MARTIN, JESSICA HYNES, ANDREW WHYMENT, TOM COURTENAY, HELEN FRASER AND GEOFFREY HUGHES.

THEME MUSIC: HALF THE WORLD AWAY BY OASIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such a genius sitcom. It’s warm, hilariously witty, down-to-earth and the genius part is that it’s based on such a simple premise, ie, a bunch of working-class folks from Manchester sitting round on a family couch in front of the telly, just talking shite-talk to each other.

‘Whatcher ‘ave for your tea, Dave?’ and ‘You’ll never guess who was in’t Chinese last night?’ Stuff like that, the shite-talk we talk with our families and friends every day. It might not be earth-shattering, but it’s the stuff of which everyday life is made up.

Caroline Aherne as Denise Royle is pure comic genius. Denise is lazy in the extreme, which means that she and her work-shy Dad Jim Royle are like two peas in a pod. She chain-smokes and she can sink a pint as well as her dad and her hubby Dave, and she’s not one to let impending marriage and motherhood tie her down. ‘I’ve gotter keep me independence, Mam…!’ (How many times does she palm them kiddies off on ‘er mam and dad…?)

Dave, a removals man and sometimes-disc jockey, is completely under Denise’s thumb. If he has any ambitions in life beyond slouching on the Royles’ couch eating one of Denise’s mam’s bacon butties, he keeps it well hidden. (Well, Denise doesn’t feed him, lol. That’s apparently not part of her remit as Dave’s missus…!)

He enjoys a pint or fifteen of a night, down the Feathers with his main man Jim Royle, and if he should happen to bump into his ex there, Beverly Macca with the great big knockers, well, he’d best keep schtum about it, that’s all, or Our Denise’ll ‘ave his testicles for ping-pong balls. She will an’ all, our Dave…!

Our Mam, or Barbara Royle, is like Marge Simpson from The Simpsons. She medicates her brood with food, an endless assembly line of grub to cork their cryholes, everything from the aforementioned bacon butties to a Christmas dinner big enough to feed all outdoors to a Kit-Kat or a Bounty bar with your cup of char.

She didn’t exactly draw James Bond or Prince Rainier of Monaco in the lottery of marriage, but she seems to be holding up okay under it. She loves her kids and grand-kids and a bit of gossip, but some of her hubby Jim’s grottier habits turn her stomach, and no wonder.

Jim is a character. His armchair in the family living-room is his throne, and from here he holds his court, and holds forth also, on every subject under the sun. And, to every subject under the sun, from having to pay 5p for a plastic carrier bag at the shops to Dave’s dad’s owning a Ford Mondeo, he says ‘My arse…!’ It’s sort of his catch-phrase, if you will. When he opens his wallet, the Queen declares a Bank Holiday, and he’ll have to be buried with his TV remote control, it means that much to him.

Antony Royle, aka Our Ant’ny, is Jim’s son and heir, though you wouldn’t think it, the abuse Jim gives him, calling him gayboy and Lurch from the Addams Family and yeh lazy sod and yeh lazy git and get up there and make yer sodding family a brew…! But Our Ant’ny will grow up to be, of the two Royle offspring, the more successful and dynamic, ending up going to conferences in Congleton and other such high-flying places, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jim Royle.

If you enjoyed Big Brother in the 2000s, you’ll love Our Ant’ny’s impersonations of Craig Phillips, the winner of series one of the show, nominating fellow contestant Sada in the diary room scenes. Our Ant’ny’s a big Ali G fan too, and he and his hilariously funny dopey mate Darren, aka Kirk Sutherland from Coronation Street, have great craic outdoing each other with their classic imitations of same. ‘You is da king of the batty men…!’ Yes, indeed, harrumph, harrumph.

Norma Jean Speakman, or Nanna Royle, is a canny old dear. When she practically strips her dear dead friend Elsie’s house of ‘a few bits’ that she has her gimlet eye on after the funeral, you can see why Liz Smith was asked to play Mrs. Dilber in not one but two screen versions of Charles Dickens’s perennial favourite story, A Christmas Carol…! Still, she gives Our Ant’ny three pounds when he goes up to London for the day to be a big music mogul, so she can’t be all bad.

Norma and her son-in-law Jim fight like cat and dog, but they love each other really, as we see in the truly gut-wrenching special episode The Queen of Sheba in which… gasp, sob, sniffle… Nanna Dies. And this is meant to be comedy, lol…! Remember when Nanna asks her daughter Barbara back in 1999 if she (Nanna) is definitely ‘staying over for Minnelium Night…?’ It’s one of my most enduring memories of the late ’90s and early ‘Noughties.

Mary and Joseph (Mary and Joseph, lol!) from next door are always popping in the back door, Irish Mary to swap bits of gossip with Barbara and to ‘have a bit of a sniff around to see if she can smell anything untoward’ after Dave treks dog muck in on his shoe, and the monosyllabic Joe to make such magnificent pronouncements as ‘A little baby…!’ when Denise announces that herself and Dave are expecting a visit from the Stork.

Mary and Joseph’s one child, their daughter Cheryl (not Jesus!), is always unsuccessfully on a diet, always hungry and always stuffing her face. She’s always on the hunt for a bloke too. That time she tries putting an ad in the personals and Lomper from The Full Monty, dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and a tie, ends up on the Royle family couch between Cheryl and a practically prone Our Denise so that the Royles can give him the once-over is so pricelessly funny. Uncomfortable is not the word.

My favourite character is Twiggy. A big bear of a man with a heart of pure gold, he can sell you anything in the world your little heart desires, but just give him some time to rob it first, right? He only sees his son Lee when they both end up in the same nick together at the same time and, if there’s any free grub going round at his great mate Jim’s house, you can be sure that Twiggy’ll be first in line. ‘Our Ant’ny, put some bacon under for Twiggy, would you?’

The Royles do Christmas so well. It’s that kind of magical Christmas from the ’90s and the 2000s when mobile phones were still a novelty and shops, horror of horrors, did occasionally close and allow families some time to veg out on the couch together and watch The Snowman while pigging out on turkey sandwiches and Quality Street.

Back then, of course, Quality Street choccies came in a proper tin. A tin, mark you, and none of this plastic tub or even plastic pouch shite. Pouch, my arse…! Sigh. Don’t even get me started on how much our favourite sweets and chocolates have changed since the ’90s.

My two favourite episodes are Christmas ones. One is the one where Emma, Our Ant’ny’s preggers girlfriend, brings her well-to-do parents round to meet the Royles one Crimbo Night, and everyone ends up goggling at the breast implants that Roger (John Henshaw) has bought for his blonde wife, Valerie (Sharon Duce).

Nanna develops quite the girl-crush on Valerie, but she’s really curious to know first if the airline’s advised Valerie if her new titties have been cleared for take-off. Then, when it’s pull-a-cracker time, Nanna was ‘hoping for Valerie’ to be her cracker buddy. It’s just so funny.

Then, finally, there’s my favourite episode of all, the one where Denise goes into labour at Christmas-time and everyone rushes off down the ‘ospital with her. The camera pans round the empty living-room, empty of people but full of Christmas, with the lights and the tree and the cards and the telly and the couch.

That heavenly couch ‘upstairs’ has quite a few Royle behinds settled on it by now, sadly. The wonderful Caroline Aherne, Liz Smith, Doreen Keogh and Geoffrey Hughes are all deceased now. No doubt they’ll be joined by other cast members in the fullness of time. We’ll always have our memories of them, and the three series and four Christmas specials of this magnificent sitcom that captured so brilliantly the essence of the ’90s and the new ‘minnelium.’ All together now: Sitcom, my arse…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES. (1990-1995) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hyacinth richard

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES. (1990-1995) WRITTEN BY ROY CLARKE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY HAROLD SNOAD. STARRING PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE, CLIVE SWIFT, JOSEPHINE TEWSON, JUDY CORNWELL, GEOFFREY HUGHES, MARY MILLAR, SHIRLEY STELFOX, JEREMY GITTINS, MARION BARRON AND DAVID GRIFFIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s my sister Violet, the one with the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony…!’

‘The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking!’

‘She’ll sing at me, I know she will…!’

‘Coffee in ten minutes, Elizabeth…!’

‘Mind the pedestrian, Richard!’

‘Oh, nice…!

This is one of the best British sitcoms ever made. It’s right up there with FAWLTY TOWERS and ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES for sheer brilliance and terrific writing. I was thrilled to find the complete box-set containing a whopping forty episodes (FAWLTY TOWERS only ever made twelve, lol) and three fifty-minute Christmas specials. My kids and I have been watching these at the weekend since the summer started, and it’s brought us together like you wouldn’t believe.

Hyacinth Bucket- pronounced ‘Bouquet,’ if you please, under pain of death- is Britain’s most snobbish and house-proud middle-aged housewife. She’s the world’s most enthusiastic social climber, desperate to prove her social superiority to herself and others.

Her house could be featured in HOMES AND GARDENS, it’s so clean and sparkling and stylish. Her candlelight suppers are the talk of the town, and as for her waterside suppers which include riparian entertainment, well, even the characters in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS couldn’t manage it quite so nicely.

Her Royal Doulton china with the hand-painted periwinkles is the envy of all England, and if you phone this lady up looking for a No. 41 with rice and beansprouts, you’d better be aware that you’re calling her on her slim-line pearl-white telephone with last number redial facility and ‘within the precincts of a vicar,’ so you’d just better watch out, that’s all…!

Her long-suffering husband Richard Bouquet- Dickie Bucket as was, before he met the wife- has terrible trouble filling his days now that he’s rather reluctantly taken early retirement. Every activity in which he engages has to be devised or at the very least supervised by his wife, who would almost certainly tidy him away in a cupboard when she’s not using him, if she could get away with it.

He can do the garden, but he has to look like he’s enjoying it, which would imply to anyone watching that they could easily afford a gardener, only Richard enjoys gardening so much he prefers to do it himself, see? Hyacinth is most dreadfully worried that the neighbours will see Richard gardening with a miserable face and think he’s being forced to do it because they’re too poor to… Well, you get it, don’t you…?

Richard has marched to Hyacinth’s tune since they were married. He’s completely under the thumb of his high maintenance wife, who regularly requires driving to stately homes to hob-nob with the big nobs, to travel agents to pick up brochures for the most expensive holidays they have on offer (they don’t have to GO on the holiday; all that matters is that people think they can AFFORD to go!) and into the countryside to look for a holiday home. Poor Richard lives in fear of Hyacinth’s spending too much, which she nearly always does, as he’s utterly unable to put his foot down on any subject under the sun.

Elizabeth from next door is a bag of nerves in Hyacinth’s pristine showhouse. She’s so terrified of spilling her coffee on the lovely perfect furniture that it becomes a running gag that she does exactly this in every episode.

Her brother Emmett, who is living with Elizabeth now he’s divorced, tells his sister to refuse to go next door when the call comes from Hyacinth. Elizabeth snorts in justifiable derision. You try saying no to her, she tells her brother. She never listens!

Emmett finds this out the hard way. You really don’t say no to Hyacinth, who would climb over you in her highly polished court shoes to get to a local celebrity or councillor or a minor aristocrat.

When Hyacinth wants a part in Emmett’s ‘Twenties musical THE BOYFRIEND, which calls for slim young women to play flappers in sheath dresses, feathers and heels, he’ll find out just how determined she can be. ‘Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…!’

Hyacinth is immensely  proud of her seldom-seen sister Violet, who was fortunate enough to marry Bruce, a rich turf accountant, and now she has the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony. Never mind that Bruce is at the very least a transvestite and quite possibly bisexual or even homosexual into the bargain. Violet must keep her marriage vows, if only for the sake of the Mercedes…!

Hyacinth loves all her family, but maybe she’d quite like to tidy away the Daisy-and-Onslow branch, purely for cosmetic reasons, you understand? Her sister Daisy- not the one with the Mercedes, sauna and room for a pony!- is married to Onslow, a self-confessed bone-idle slob in a vest who spends his days in an armchair swilling beer and watching telly.

Daisy, a hopeless romantic who spends her time devouring Mills & Boons, still finds Onslow attractive (which he definitely is; he exudes a distinct air of sweaty, hairy masculinity), but he seems terrified at the idea of entering into any intimacies with his wife. He’ll even get out of bed before noon to do the garden just to get out of a romantic interlude with a disappointed Daisy.

He’s a bit of an enigma, is Onslow. You might be forgiven for judging him on appearances and thinking him as thick as a short plank, but he occasionally lets slip the fact that he’s actually a deep philosophical thinker with a penchant for the Open University and big thick books about Quantum Physics. No wonder Daisy can’t get enough of him after all these years.

Rose, the attractive unmarried sister with the heart of pure gold, lives with Onslow and Daisy and has had her share of husbands. Always someone else’s, unfortunately. She’s been hurt in love many times but she never gives up. If a Mr. Blenkinsop fails to give satisfaction, well, there’s always a Mr. Halliwell waiting round the next corner.

Played in the first series only by Shirley Stelfox (Edna from Emmerdale) and from then on by the sadly now deceased Mary Millar, the highly strung and over-emotional Rose often feels in need of spiritual guidance, in which case the obvious person to go to is the dishy local Vicar, Michael.

He’s almost as afraid of the man-mad, short-skirted Rose as he is of ‘the Bucket woman,’ as he and his sensible, no-nonsense lady wife call her. His wife is aware of her husband’s good looks and charm and would prefer to keep him out of the clutches of all and any neighbourhood floozies, if you don’t mind.

Daddy, the ancient paterfamilias of Hyacinth, Rose, Daisy and Violet’s branch of the family, lives with Onslow and Daisy. Hyacinth would be happy to have him at her house, of course, except for the fact that he leaves such hard-to-remove stains.

She pops round frequently, though, to make sure that her sisters haven’t lost him or left him to wander off to Africa on his own. He’s usually easy enough to find, though. When he’s not renting out his bed- and issuing a receipt too, by Jove!- to a Mr. Mawsby and then going walkabout, that is.

Daddy, who has a keen eye for the ladies and is not above chasing them while naked on a bicycle, fought in World War Two and he sometimes continues to fight in it fifty years later, in his gas-mask and with his bayonet to hand. Don’t bother trying to get in the house when Daddy’s on duty. He has orders to defend it to the last man…!

Hyacinth is inordinately proud of her never-seen son, Sheridan, who’s off at University majoring in needlework and rooming with his ‘friend,’ Tarquin. He only phones his Mummy to get her to ask Daddy for money, but Hyacinth is always thrilled to hear from him anyway.

A conspiracy of sympathy for Richard, the browbeaten husband, exists amongst Emmett, Elizabeth, Daisy, Onslow, Rose and the Vicar, a sympathy which Richard is only too eager to encourage. He stands up to Hyacinth just once, in the episode in which she demands that Richard forcefully evict a man from a telephone box just because ‘our Hyacinth’ wants to make a call. She nearly has a fit, it’s so very out of character for him.

‘Our Hyacinth’ can be quite formidable when she wants to be. Just ask the nervy postman (‘Where’s my invitation to the Lord Mayor’s garden party?’), who never used to be nervy before he met Hyacinth, or any tradesman calling to the door who’s asked to remove his shoes before entering the house because she’s just had her herringbone re-lacquered, if you please.

And God help you if you have the temerity to brush up against her walls! She can be a bit of an old battleaxe at times, but her heart’s in the right place. In a genuine antique Waterford crystal glass tumbler on top of the display case with the polished walnut doors. God bless her and all who sail in her.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor