The Royle Family-Series 1 (1998)
|Category||Comedy||Main Menu Audio & Animation|
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||173:35 (Case: 170)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Time Life Video & TV
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This review marks one hundred for me on this web site. I'm very pleased that this personal milestone arrives with the review of series one of the wonderful, understated British sitcom The Royle Family.
If you're unfamiliar with this superb program, then let me point out from the outset that this Royle family has nothing whatsoever to do with the Royal Family. In fact this Royle family couldn't be any further removed from living the regal and pompous lifestyle of royalty.
The first episode of the first series premiered on BBC2 on the 14th September 1998 and quickly gained a considerable following, ensuring a rapid promotion to BBC1 for the next series. The Royle Family has won a multitude of awards over the years and is a much loved and respected program in Britain. The sitcom polled a very respectable 19th place out of 100 entries in a 2004 survey to find Britain's best ever sitcom.
The Royles are a proud, working class family who live in a cramped council house somewhere in Manchester. We, the audience, become an invisible guest, observing the day-to-day comings and goings of the household, most of which revolve around an overloaded ashtray and the television set. Although the production is incredibly simplistic, it still manages to perfectly capture a very realistic portrait of family life, regardless of class. The camera never ventures beyond the confined interior of the family home, so the casting and writing is critical to the success or failure of the program. Thankfully, The Royle Family is a big winner in both of these categories. The sitcom is superbly written by Caroline Aherne, Craig Cash and Henry Normal, with the former two also playing key character roles in the program.
The Royles are headed by the argumentative father and patriarch, Jim (Ricky Tomlinson). Jim is probably in his fifties, is unemployed, very opinionated, lazy and overweight. He spends a good deal of time in his armchair watching the television and arguing the point, but underneath his cantankerous exterior he has a heart of gold. In contrast to Jim is his mild mannered wife and mother of the family, Barbara (Sue Johnston). Barbara offers a calming influence on the family and not only deals with the domestic duties, but is also the only money earner in the family, working at a local bakery. Jim and Barbara's daughter is Denise (Caroline Aherne). She is in her mid-twenties, unemployed and is also rather lazy, spending most of her time chain smoking in front of the telly. She is also pre-occupied with jealous hatred for her fiancé's ex-girlfriend, Beverly Macker. Denise is engaged to marry Dave Best (Craig Cash). He spends a great deal of time in the Royle home - much of it glued to the TV screen. Dave has a job as a furniture removalist and also runs his own mobile disco business on the side. The final member of the Royle family is the teenage son, Antony (Ralf Little). Poor Antony is always the one to do the menial chores such as answering the door or fetching something from the shop. He and Denise are constantly irritating each other. Other minor characters in series one include Barbara's eighty-two year old mother, Norma or Nanna (Liz Smith), the Royle's next door neighbours, Mary and Joe Carroll (Doreen Keogh and Peter Martin), their daughter, Cheryl (Jessica Stevenson) and Jim's best friend, Twiggy (Geoffrey Hughes).
Here is a brief run down of the six episodes in series one:
The latest expensive phone bill has Jim hopping mad, as he only has six weeks left until Denise's wedding and he still has to pay for it. Denise and Cheryl are keen to lose some weight before the wedding. Dave has a DJ job at the local, but Denise is not enthusiastic about it. Barbara is busy learning the prices for her first day at the bakery. Twiggy arrives at the house with some clothes for sale. Jim can't resist a new pair of jeans.
As the family discusses the wedding, Jim is still stressing over the cost. But even this can't stop him devouring a pork chop. Barbara makes arrangements for Nanna to come and visit, much to Jim's annoyance. Denise believes she has her future married life all mapped out. Antony negotiates a deal to earn himself a ciggie. Dave arrives with his new business cards. Jim's in trouble again for announcing his toilet movements.
Nanna has arrived for Sunday dinner. Mary and Cheryl bring over the wedding dress for Denise to try on. The family gathers around the telly, placing bets on antique prices on The Antique Roadshow. Dave agrees to drive Nanna home, taking the pressure off Jim.
Denise has a migraine due to the stress of the wedding, or is it really a hangover? Antony has scored himself a black eye in a fight. Cheryl brings around the leather jacket that Denise ordered in a catalogue. It's Jim's birthday, so it's cake and Pomagne all round before heading down to The Feathers to continue the celebrations.
Denise and Dave arrive home late from the pub and turn the house into turmoil. Denise accuses Dave of flirting with Beverly Macker and she promptly calls off the wedding. Jim, Barbara and Antony come downstairs to help restore the peace. Jim makes cups of tea all round, with a drop of whiskey to help calm the nerves. They soon settle down to watch some late night telly, while Jim deals with a bad case of indigestion. Tempers settle and the wedding plans are soon restored. Antony fetches Jim's banjo for a late night family sing-along. Dave scores the couch to sleep on and gets a visitor.
The wedding day has finally arrived. Barbara, Cheryl and Denise are upstairs nervously preparing, while Nanna's downstairs eating. Jim, Dave and Twiggy return from the pub and must keep Dave from seeing the bride. Mary and Joe also drop in to see Denise in her gown before heading to the church. Fresh from the hairdresser, Antony announces his plan to take over Denise's room immediately after the wedding. Jim gets a sudden and violent attack of the runs. Everyone leaves the house to get into a taxi, which leaves just Jim and Denise to wait for the wedding car. They have one last drop of whiskey together before leaving.
The video transfer for The Royle Family is reasonably good.
The series is presented full screen in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.
The degree of sharpness and clarity is moderate, but not at all problematic. The transfer is slightly soft overall and there are varying levels of grain present throughout. However, this was nothing of any great significance or annoyance and it certainly didn't spoil my viewing enjoyment. Blacks occasionally exhibited degrees of low level noise, but shadows were reasonably good.
The plain and drab colours in the production design appear well balanced. There is certainly no use of vivid colour on display here.
There were no MPEG artefacts noticed. Apart from the aforementioned grain, film-to-video artefacts were negligible and film artefacts were not an issue.
Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on this DVD.
This is a single sided, dual layered disc. The layer change occurs between episodes, so there is no disruption.
The audio transfer is also reasonably good.
There is only one audio track available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
As previously mentioned The Royle Family is set in Manchester, so character accents are quite heavy. Naturally, this and the use of local slang terms caused the occasional problem with comprehension, but as you adapt to the first couple of episodes it does get much easier.
I found no adverse issues with audio sync.
The only music present in The Royle Family is the main theme song, which was written by Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher and performed by Oasis. The song is really quite good, accurately capturing the laid back mood of the sitcom.
The surrounds really only contributed when the theme music played at the beginning and end of each episode.
The subwoofer was rarely used, apart from the theme music and the occasional door closing.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras on this disc.
The menus are very well designed and themed. They feature clever animation, theme music and are 16x9 enhanced.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
At the time of this review there is no R1 version of The Royle Family available.
All three series of The Royle Family are available on DVD in the UK, including a standard box-set. However, in relation to the first series only, the UK - R2 edition released on 15th May 2006 appears to be identical in terms of content to this reviewed edition. In that case, there seems no logical reason to look past this local version, unless you're keen to pick up the collection before it's officially released here.
The Royle Family is very deserving of its reputation in the UK as a sitcom of considerable quality. The writing and performances are first class, which makes repeated viewings of the series an absolute pleasure. Although it may not be as well known in this country as it is in Britain, here's hoping the welcome release of this superb series to DVD might just change that. With a bit of luck we won't have to wait too long for series two and three to also arrive on DVD. Highly Recommended.
The video and audio transfers are acceptable.
The lack of any extras is a big disappointment though.
|DVD||JVC XV-N412, using Component output|
|Display||Hitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Panasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS|
|Speakers||Fronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17|