Craig Cash has announced that the Royle Family will return again this Christmas for another special.
It was only last week that I was lamenting the rumoured comeback of the Fast Show. Despite it’s undisputed excellence and originality, I don’t believe that it can still be as fresh and original 17 years on unless it invents a whole series of new characters. The farewell live tour was an endearing roll call of all the favourites, but didn’t really offer much more than a chance to hear each of the characters saying their well-known catch phrases.
I have to say then that I was even more disappointed just now to read that the Royle Family will be returning AGAIN. It is, or rather was, one of the subtlest and near perfect shows I’ve seen. Beautifully observed, written and performed – beaming with unforced irony, hypocrisy and family truths. Amid Jim’s tightness with money, Denise’s laziness and Antony’s enforced servitude, possibly my favourite moment is when Barbara mentions that the sausages they had have gone past their use-by date. Jim is obviously outraged, but when Dave casually declares, “that stuff doesn’t bother me Barbara, I’ll eat them”, she turns to the rest of the family with such admiration and respect and says “what a wonderful way to live your life Dave. You hear that Jim?”
The show’s absolute charm originated in its grainy ‘home-movie’ look and voyeuristic nature, but it was exactly this which I felt was lost in the subsequent christmas specials. It seemed that the camera work, picture quality and set-up all seemed slightly more polished and contrived. It felt much more like a sitcom. The writing became less subtle and, in my opinion, over-forced the inherent irony. The picture quality seemed cleaner which took away its charm, and the movement into other sets, such as the Best’s house, sent me into a disorientated state far from the comfortable and familiar set-up of the Royle’s living room.
Certain elements of the updated storylines, such as knowing how Antony has faired in the big wide world, are interesting as a matter of curiosity, but beyond this only serve as a novelty and in fact change the whole dynamic which made the family so funny to watch in the first place. Antony’s position as the perpetual underdog and family skivvy were just one fundamental element to the structure, which once changed, altered the way you felt. On the one hand you felt your heart warm to the fact that he’d moved on in life, but at the same time you lost that integral heartache and pathos.
Chortle reported that Craig Cash claims that the ‘characters still have a lot of mileage in them’, and I actually couldn’t agree more, but I just think it would be far funnier to see how little had actually changed in their lives, as opposed to how much had. Having said that I will be watching at Christmas, and just hope it will show a return to form, with the same emotion and humour that it did at the start.