top of page

Caroline Aherne: Comedy Queen | Preview (BBC Two)

The unique life and talent of Caroline Aherne is celebrated in a new Arena film, featuring unseen photographs and contributions from a cast of her lifelong friends, including Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Craig Cash and producer Andy Harries.

Aherne’s pioneering representation of working class and family life in The Royle Family won her three Baftas and changed comedy writing forever, while her alter-ego Mrs Merton’s question to stage performer Debbie McGee - “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” - is considered one of the greatest comic one-liners in British TV history.

The film traces Aherne’s life from childhood in Wythenshawe, Manchester, through her early adventures as a (rare) woman on Manchester’s alternative stand-up scene and the breakthrough moment when the BBC commissioned The Mrs Merton Show, when she fast became a national icon and surreptitious satirist-in-chief of mid-90s’ celebrity culture.

As the 90s entered their final years, Aherne, with Craig Cash, conceived, wrote and starred in The Royle Family.

Co-writers Henry Normal and Phil Mealy, and fellow cast members Sue Johnston, Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little recall the remarkable writing and acting talent at the heart the series - a sitcom playing out in near-real time, devoid of studio laughter, punchlines, or anything much happening at all - but that built huge audiences and garnered multiple awards.

As her star rose, the realities of living with her own fame came to define Aherne’s life, as she became a fixture of tabloid speculation about her personal life, something she would struggle with throughout her career.

Tragically Caroline died of cancer in 2016. Her friends recall not just the lasting cultural and creative legacy she left behind, but of the joy she found in human life, her inimitable sense of mischief and the happiness she brought those closest to her.

Produced and Directed by Claire Whalley and Hannah Lowes, the film airs on Christmas Day on BBC Two.


bottom of page