The head of the family, Jim Royle (Ricky Tomlinson), is the star. His every second outburst is some kind of sarcastic, critical reproach or joke at someone else’s expense. When not making friends that way, he’s scratching himself or picking his nose. Jim unashamedly does all the things publicly that most men do privately (expect that!). There’s a little bit of Jim in everyone.
His long-suffering wife Barbara (Sue Johnston) is cook and cleaner. She likes to gossip but has a heart of gold beneath the outer shell. Somehow she and Jim mustered up the enthusiasm to have two children: twenty-something layabout Denise (Caroline Aherne) and her dogsbody brother Anthony (Ralf Little). He gets less screen time than the others, but he’s my second favourite character.
In the three years that the weekly show ran, the camera never left the house interior. We were given glimpses of the outside world but it wasn't until the specials came along that the exterior was explored. When it happens that first time, have your hankies at the ready because it’s one of the most unforgettable and emotionally powerful TV moments I've ever witnessed. Really.
20 episodes, most of which are approx 30 minutes each, and 5 specials that run longer. Everything up to and including the 2006 special is quality, but everything afterwards was less successful. There was an attempt to wed absurdest comedy into the mix, which really didn't work.
3½ bacon-butties (made by Anthony) out of 5