The Blog

The Royals: We Are Not Amused

It's the sort of programme that Scarlett Moffat from Googlebox would love. Is that a recommendation? Only about as far as unprepared blowfish is a recommendation on a Japanese restaurant menu.

This wasn't so much an Annus horribilis. Isn't there an over the counter treatment for that? Preparation H(RH), if I'm not mistaken. The Royals (E!,Thursdays at 9pm or available on catch up) was in fact more like an Hora horribilis (horrible hour). An Hora and a quarter horribilis to be precise. Whatever the Latin is for the biggest steaming pile of doo-doo ever to have been expelled from the anus privilegiata of a regal corgi, it was that as well.

Given the choice of watching it or having lunch with the oh so common in-laws of their grandson, you can imagine Her Majesty begging to sit down with Carole and Michael Middleton.

It's the sort of programme that Scarlett Moffat from Googlebox would love. Is that a recommendation? Only about as far as unprepared blowfish is a recommendation on a Japanese restaurant menu.

On the topic of Gogglebox, one can't help thinking that the Windsors would make an ideal choice to be a part of it. Strictly the original members, of course: The Queen, Prince Phillip, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. After all, Edward Jazzhands - the Earl of Entertainment - is eminently qualified to spout off about all things show business. Who can forget the considerable success he enjoyed with Ardent Productions way back when? Practically everyone as it turns out. However, if it were still in existence, he might, much to the embarrassment of his mother, have had some kind of involvement in this eagerly anticipated scripted endeavour from a station more celebrated for its reality output such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

The Royals stars Elizabeth Hurley as Queen Helena - the first and, in all likelihood, the last - the matriarch of a "fictional" UK monarchy.

Several great actresses have played our most famous and celebrated female sovereigns. Flora Robson, Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson and Cate Blanchett have graced the screen - large and small - as Elizabeth I. Queen Victoria has been portrayed by Anna Neagle, Judi Dench and Emily Blunt. And Queen Elizabeth II has found herself depicted by luminaries including Kristin Scott Thomas, Diana Quick and most notably, Helen Mirren.

Unfortunately, Liz can't hold a candle to any of these ladies. She most definitely isn't acting royalty. She isn't even rock royalty. (Instead of merely mentioning Elton at very beginning, wouldn't it have been better if they had just got him to play the part)? She's actually frock royalty. Part of that very select group (of one) whose fame and whole career is based solely on a dress she wore over 20 years ago.

What she does bring to the party is a certain high gloss Euro trash glamour. Not forgetting a figure that would frankly be totally inconceivable on a woman of 88, which the real Queen is, but still astounds on someone of 49, which Hurley is.

On the red carpet at the recent London launch and without a hint of irony, she said: "Some of the best writing, some of the best producing and some of the best acting anywhere is coming out of television".

What she conveniently forgot to add was: "Sadly, all of them are spectacularly missing from this series".

None of which would perhaps matter if The Royals were a wittier, more self-mocking and camper version of itself. Often though it almost seems intent on being taken half seriously as when Vincent Regan playing King Simon is banging on about getting parliament to hold a referendum to abolish the monarchy. He believes that people need bread and a job. Oh come on, what year is he living in? Even in 1789 Marie Antoinette promised her subjects some cake.

Not a single member of the cast emerge from the proceedings especially covered in glory. The only vaguely standout performances for what they're worth come from Hatty Preston and Lydia Rose Bewley as Princess Miranda and Princess Penelope, the double dumb offspring of Cyrus (Jake Maskell), the king's evil and duplicitous brother.

Although it's been denied by the creator, but not too strenuously, the gruesome twosome are so obviously based on the equally odious Beatrice and Eugenie.

As for the rest of the ruling family, Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) as the wayward daughter of the crowned heads is simply a cardboard cut out of a rebellious royal; a sort of modern day Princess Margaret. While Prince Liam (William Moseley) has the appearance of a more follicley blessed Wills. An heir with hair, if you prefer.

He too is in love with someone beneath him. In this case, her name is Ophelia. Well, it was never going to be Susan, was it?

The only really lucky actor out of the whole ensemble is the one who never got to play Prince Robert (Helena and Simon's first born) on account of the character being killed in military action. All the same, what's the odds that he isn't really dead and makes a dramatic appearance in a future instalment?

The main trouble with the Royals is that it's nigh on impossible to parody an institution that is already beyond parody. By the end of the opening episode, you are left with the pervading feeling that E! would much prefer to have filmed the genuine article and brought us the Real Royals of Great Britain.

Who knows, maybe there'll come a moment in TV history when they will.

Meanwhile, I'm personally looking forward to Queen Helena having a little tete-a-tete with the Prime Minister, who will almost certainly be played by some incredibly buff Brad Pitt lookalike.

She'll no doubt remove his shirt and utter the following memorable words: "Right Prime Minister, shall we get down to business?" Now that would never have happened in Harold Wilson's day.

We also have the upcoming prospect - enticing or otherwise - of Joan Collins once again wheeling out the bitch from hell role. This time as the Queen Mother.

Those who can recall the Moldavian massacre storyline from Dynasty might be keeping their fingers crossed for a similar fate to befall this particular lot of royals.