Ricky Tomlinson has revealed that getting back together with his Royle Family co-stars is like a big family reunion.

The 73-year-old actor reprised his role as dad Jim Royle in the recent Christmas special, and although the critics were not impressed, the show proved as popular as ever, picking up a bigger audience than Call The Midwife, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey.

“It’s weird because we don’t see each other from one year’s end to another, but when you walk on set it’s as though it was only last week that we worked together,” Ricky revealed.

“And it’s funny because if someone’s sitting in Jim’s chair and I walk past, they get up.”

His latest TV project is the ITV comedy drama Great Night Out, in which he plays a long-suffering pub landlord whose clientele include a quartet of football-mad friends.

Ricky said that he gets on just as well with his younger co-stars on the show.

“I got talking to them,” he recalled. “One of them had been a boxer as a young man, he knew all the sorts of villains from Soho and that. It was lovely, in my break I would go and sit with them and have a laugh. It was a nice job.”