The Royle Family: Behind The Sofa

Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne

IT appears Terry Waite has warmed to The Royle Family.

Creators Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash tell tonight how they were worried about offending the former Beirut hostage in their last Christmas Day BBC1 special.

In what’s billed as their first major TV interview together, they recall the Royle quiz in a caravan during The Golden Egg Cup:

Dave, played by Craig, asked: “Who famously said, ‘I want to be alone?’”

Barbara (Sue Johnston): “Is it Terry Waite?”

Jim (Ricky Tomlinson): “Was it *****, Terry Waite. He didn’t want to be alone, did he? He was held captive that poor sod for bloody five years and tied to a bloody radiator.”

Barbara: “Oh, well, at least he was warm.”

Craig reveals in new GOLD documentary The Royle Family: Behind The Sofa: “There was a bit of a kerfuffle about mentioning Terry Waite being tied to a radiator.”

But Terry didn’t take offence.

“He had a good laugh about it,” reveals Craig.

“His brother wrote in and said how much they’d enjoyed it.”

My preview of the documentary is in today’s Manchester Evening News.

It’s an excellent film, obviously made with loving care by the people involved in the series.

Aside from cast interviews – including Liz Smith at her Worthing retirement apartment – it also features the likes of executive producer Andy Harries, writers Phil Mealey and Henry Normal, Catherine Tate, John Thomson, Alistair McGowan, Charlie Higson and Jimmy McGovern.

The feature has yet to go online, so let’s put that right below.


CAROLINE Aherne gives a rare interview in a new documentary about The Royle Family tonight.

The Manchester actress, writer and director reveals the story behind the award-winning comedy, sat with co-creator Craig Cash on one of TV’s most iconic pieces of furniture.

The Royle Family: Behind The Sofa (GOLD, tonight, 9pm) is a fascinating 90-minute film which sees publicity shy Caroline and Craig in their first major TV interview together, with Craig saying: “It probably will be the last one ever.”

Caroline reflects on her telly family: “It’s just such a good quality, laziness. It’s underestimated. You don’t see enough of it on the telly.”

Royles reunited

The writers, who played Dave and Denise in the sitcom, return to The Pie Factory studios in Salford where it was filmed. Caroline says: “They say, ‘If you love your work, you never work a day in your life.’ We’d do it if we didn’t get paid, wouldn’t we?’ Craig replies: “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Produced by Jellylegs, the company set up by Craig and Royle writer Phil Mealey, the documentary looks back over three series and five specials.

It also features interviews with cast members including Ricky Tomlinson (Jim), Sue Johnston (Barbara), Ralf Little (Antony), Liz Smith (Nana), Geoffrey Hughes (Twiggy) and Jessica Hynes (Cheryl).

“Most families have got someone who’s funny in it. In The Royle Family, it’s the dad,” explains Caroline. “I just had it in my head that it was a half hour slice of that family. So you actually stayed with them for the real half hour.”

She talks about her typical working day with Craig. “When we were writing early on, if we write a good line we have the day off then. Most days we find we have to watch Loose Women.”

Craig adds: “We’ve got an office near me. But more often than not Caroline will do two days in the office and then you’ll get a call going, ‘Is there any chance we can work at ours today, only I’ve got such and such a body coming round? There never is.

“So we’ve got to go round to hers, where Jeremy Kyle’s on, so we’ve got to watch a bit of that. And then we’ll sit down and we’ll chat about X Factor or last night’s TV for a good hour or so…” Caroline interrupts: “Or slag other sitcoms off.” Craig: “Until Loose Women come on.” Caroline: “When we get the chips and gravy – and that’s a typical working day.”

As they were

Nothing like The Royle Family had been seen before it arrived on screen in 1998. Craig recalls: “I knew me and Caroline would laugh at it because we’ve always laughed at the same things. Every day we’ll talk on the phone about what her mum has said or my dad has said or somebody we’ve seen in a shop has said.

“And it’s always just the little bits of conversation that we find funny. So I knew that I’d find it funny but it’s a brave gamble to think that the whole nation would enjoy it as much as we would.”

Their paths first crossed in Stockport several years before. Caroline remembers: “On the very first day I met him, I went home and I wrote in my diary, ‘I have just met the funniest man in the world.’”

Craig reveals how Caroline’s mum is “a great source of material” while his writing partner adds: “She’s very Irish and she’s like Mary next door.”

A teenage Ralf was cast as Denise’s brother Antony after he appeared in Manchester filmed Children’s Ward. Caroline again drew on her own family experience for scenes of the two bickering.

“I think that’s just brotherly and sisterly love. There’s 18 months between me and our Patrick and we used to be really picking at each other all the time. Now we’re the best of friends. But when you’re growing up, everything your brother does annoys you.”

She talks about Denise’s first pregnancy in 1999. “I can’t have babies in real life. So it was lovely to write myself in being pregnant. So I got the feeling twice…twice I’ve been pregnant in it.”

Ricky says the tears were real when he and Caroline filmed the emotional father and daughter “Pia Jesu” bathroom scene after Denise’s waters had broken.

There were more when Nana’s death was filmed for the 2006 Queen of Sheba special. “I hadn’t written anything for a while and I never thought I ever would again,” explains Caroline.

“And then my granny died. I remember coming home on the plane and thinking, ‘That’s what we’ll do. We’ll have the nana die in The Royle Family.’ That was what made me want to write again.”

She adds: “It was weird because she wasn’t really dying but she was dying in our little family. We were all shocked at how much it actually upset us filming it.”

But it’s been mainly laughter most of the way for the Royles. “It really is a joy,” concludes Caroline. “I think we’re very, very lucky.”

*The Royle Family: Behind The Sofa is on GOLD at 9pm tonight and then repeated at various times over the coming week.

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