Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rare Review: The Royle Family - The Queen Of Sheba

I don't often write reviews, so this one will most likely be short. It's not pleasant writing these things. And I won't be playing by the typical reviews rules - I just have something to get off my chest. That's why I'm here.

Minutes ago, the last episode of The Royle Family screened on BBC1. This special, one hour episode, The Queen of Sheba, comes almost seven years after the third and final series wrapped up. As such, you could honestly claim it was eagerly awaited, not least of all by me. The last week has been a virtual drumroll of anticipation.

So was I disappointed? Yes, I was. I loved it, but not without reservation. To be disappointed by something you love is not only a suitably Royle reaction, it proves to me just how much I adored the previous three series, at least in retrospect.

The first series was directed by Mark Mylod and it is, if you're asking me, still his best work. He set a new mode for sitcoms, falteringly imitated by lesser efforts like The Office and Phoenix Nights, and in every episode he balanced the tone and pace perfectly. Watching tonight's episode, always approximately in that style, very often as good as the first series but also often not, I felt that Mylod's touch was sorely missed, and regularly wished that they'd been able to secure his services. As the end credits rolled I went so far as to lament his absence - and then, wouldn't you know it, his credit appeared. He had come back, just not in full effect.

I've regularly mentioned Mylod on this blog, and I count myself as a genuine fan. I still do. Several scenes in tonight's show were up to scratch, but there was some distracting tricksiness and the odd wobble in the tone. One earlier scene with Jim hitting Anthony up for 50 quid was, at least on paper, an accurate observation of their established characters, though it might have played for the surprise reversal too much to seem as low-key as would have been appropriate. This was the typical mistake - some scenes were played for the big switch, the plot purpose or to make this truly a 'capper' to the series.

And don't get me started on the zoom lens.

Mylod has recently directed episodes of Entourage, and the feature film The Big White, neither of which had scripts to touch what Carolin Aherne and Craig Cash have written over the years. It's been some time since Mylod had a script as good as this, perhaps not since he last shot the Royles, and I only regret he didn't step up to it and really hit it square on.

For all of this, though, it did make me laugh countless times.

And cry.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Royle Family sucks monkey balls x 1000. Viva The Office and Pheonix Nights - James