The Royals: Season 1
At first it was only the premium cable networks, the ones that going a reputation for recent popular movies, that into the fray of original programming. Soon however, one by one the basic cable stations joined in with the wrong twist on television programming. Now it appears that is becoming a prerequisite for cable stations to have their own line of original programming. In many cases the term ‘original’ is using the loosest possible fashion, especially when they turn to producing so-called reality shows latest to join into this trend is entertainment Television’, better known simply as ‘‘E!’ The series under consideration here, ‘The Royals’, is certainly not the first regular program. Their schedule has been a lineup dominated with entertainment news, fashion commentary and red carpet events. They also have to be given credit for the ability to laugh at themselves with one of the best series, ‘The Soup’, a clip show that lampoons the full gamut of popular culture. The first that this series has achieved is as the networks first attempt at a scripted television series. Initially, when I watch commercials for the series I thought that this was going to be just another excuse for salacious dysfunctional families in the community but every single member is ruggedly handsome or exceptionally beautiful. When I received a copy for review I dutifully watched it and found myself inevitably drawn from one episode to the next. It had become an instant guilty pleasure that also affected my best friend in a similar manner. Before committing myself to review over the series again in the attempt to analyze just what was so addictive about it. Every expectation I had from the exceptionally attractive cast to the blatant dependency on sex and drugs. The aspect of the series that separates it from the many prime time teen soap operas that the standards fare for the CW is that underlying it all is a rather strong foundation of sharply crafted satire. My friend noted that the fundamental plot was taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I pointed out that every episode is named after a quote from the play. Another clue is the series loosely based on the novel, ‘Falling for Hamlet’ by Michelle Ray.
‘The Royals’ is set in an alternate reality of contemporary London. In this variation, the Royal family we are familiar with is replaced with a much younger version headed by King Simon Henstridge (Vincent Regan), his wife, Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) and their three children; the eldest and heir, Robert and his twin siblings, Prince Liam (William Moseley) and Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park). As the series opens Liam lives the life typical of the ‘spare to the throne’, living life to the fullest with a focus on ample libation in the enjoyment of various women. This is a common situation among royal families with the elder brother cast as the heir in the younger, the spare. A similar arrangement was found with Liam’s father. Simon became king of his younger brother, the spare, Prince Cyrus (Jake Maskall), remains stalled in the Royal hierarchy as the Duke of York. The Princess is no slouch when it comes to hedonistic behavior, her alcohol and drug fueled revelries are constant tabloid father much to the chagrin of her Royal mother and father. In the opening episode this is graphically established by Eleanor’s appearance on the front page falling off a table offering the paparazzi’s an unhindered view of the Royal private parts. We are also initially introduced to Liam as he astounds the patrons of the local pub with his drunken skill at darts before stumbling into bed with a beautiful blonde young woman. It turns out that she is a part of the household staff, Ophelia Pryce (Merritt Patterson), who just happens to be the daughter of the palaces security staff, Ted Pryce (Oliver Milburn). The first episode is not yet up to the first commercial break but has already quite efficiently established the basis of a royally dysfunctional family, pun intended, and the motivating event that propels the story has not even been introduced. That does come on queue; Robert, The Duke of Windsor, has died. The spare is now the heir, Liam is now in line to be the next King of England.
Before going into the romantic complications, and there are quite a few, you might as well take a look at the comic relief for the show; the daughters of the Duke, Princess Penelope (Lydia Rose Bewley) and Princess Maribel (Hatty Preston). Don’t be overly concerned about telling which one is which as it really doesn’t matter. There are inevitably shown together planning outrageous and clothing stumbling through the scene. Basically, they are strong indication that even in this alternate universe there is more than a modicum of truth about the effects of oil inbreeding. There Accumulative IQ would still be room temperature number, centigrade. They are often the overly anxious but completely unaware minions a Princess Eleanor. In stark contrast, the Grand Duchess Alexandra of Oxford (Joan Collins) is the queen’s mother and shows the audience where Helena receives her training in Machiavellian manipulation.
The relationship between Liam and Ophelia starts out as just ‘hanging out and having coffee’ quickly develops into something serious. Prompting them to realize their feelings for each other is the appearance of Liam’s ex-girlfriend, Gemma Kensington (Sophie Colquhoun) while not a member of the royalty is an heiress were prominent and influential family business jewelry. A more appropriate choice for the future King the new working-class commoner. Princess Eleanor is far too hedonistic to have a steady boyfriend but most of her problems for this season assented around the young man assigned is a primary bodyguard, Jasper Frost (Tom Austen). One night he drugs her, more than usual, and videos her performing violent degrading sexual acts upon him. Despite her having such a wild reputation of video of these actions, especially with a member of the staff would be a public relations nightmare for the Crown. Jasper uses this to not only blackmail Eleanor into repeated sexual dalliances but as a general means to control her. His English accent tends to fade at times leading her to be suspicious of everything about him. Is undoubtedly a confidence trickster but that doesn’t stand in the way of actual feelings for one another developing. Although Queen Helena is quick to denounce her daughter’s inappropriate behavior she also has a lover, a rich industrialist, Captain Alistair (Noah Huntley). He has access to the Queen’s private chamber through a secret doorway. Despite be one of the few historically accurate things about the series as all Royal family seem to be well known for the dalliances.
There is one aspect of the series that is rapidly becoming de rigueur in modern entertainment the use of social media as both a significant plot device and a way to expedite exposition. Texting is frequently used throughout the series to express the mood of the character or to move the storyline forward. Princess Eleanor’s treats are so outrageous that her mother has assigned had assistance, Rachel (Victoria Ekanoy) as Eleanor’s ‘media advisor’. If Helena tweets "my mother the Royal cow", it is intercepted and altered by Rachel to read, "I love my mum-LOL". This is obviously intended to panda to the target audience even for those of us born prior to the digital explosion of communication is an easy plot convenience to get used to and it is put to extremely good use in this context. The series does manifest the feel of the most popular primetime soap operas such as ‘Dynasty’, made playfully evident by the inclusion of Ms. Collins to the cast. Opulent interior sets convey a regal environment but the fun of the series is exhibited by the fact that despite their loyal status and power they are fundamentally a highly dysfunctional family. This affords a level of related ability with the audience in the traditional soap opera appeal of knowing that although your family may be messed up to nowhere near as bad as what you’re watching. I was pleasantly surprised after watching the first season and found myself looking forward to the second.