Tuesday 28 March 2017

6 reasons to watch 'The Crown'

You might think that a Netflix series about the British royal family has nothing to offer you. Our reporter says that's not the case

Real life: Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip in Netflix series 'The Crown'
Real life: Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Prince Philip in Netflix series 'The Crown'
Vicki Notaro

Vicki Notaro

In the so-called Golden Age of television, a lot of hyperbole surrounds what we watch on the box. 'Westworld' was hailed as the second coming of 'Game Of Thrones', viewers become enraged by the weekly politics of 'Strictly' and 'The X Factor', and 'Gogglebox', a show about people watching telly, has proved popular in multiple territories, our own included.

However, every now and then a show comes along that is truly worth the column inches and internet ramblings. And more often than not, these days, that show is on Netflix. The streaming behemoth is responsible for some of the most innovative and watchable programming in years, from 'Orange Is The New Black' and 'House of Cards' to 'Stranger Things' and 'Making A Murderer'.

And the latest feather in the online broadcaster's cap is 'The Crown', an original series about Queen Elizabeth II's early life and relationships both personal and public.

With a rumoured $156million budget, an impressive cast of British and American thesps and a stellar production team, it damn well should be impressive, and the good reviews are perhaps unsurprising.

But unless you're a bit of a royal aficionado, you might be wondering if the series holds any interest for you. After all, the British monarchy may not be as much of a draw to the average Irish viewer as say, an American convicted of murder, or a Demogorgon terrorising a small town.

However, I believe 'The Crown' to be well worth a watch, whether you're interested in the history that informs it or not. Here's why.

1 It looks magnificent

That $156million was well spent. The sets are meticulously crafted, costumes swoon-worthy in their detail and cinematography exquisite. There are jewels and furs and there's pomp and ceremony, and if you're in to property porn, you can't go far wrong with ornate palaces and country residences.

The vintage cars and planes are a treat for the eyes, and the far-flung locations beautifully exotic. All in all, it's bloody nice to look at.

2 There's drama a-plenty

Prepare to furiously google as you watch, filling in the real-life gaps in situations that might seem too far-fetched to be real. Of course there are embellishments, as sadly we aren't privy to the conversations the royals had among themselves in the early 1950s. But the drama is entirely believable; it's not just a fancy soap opera. From marital woes to sibling rivalry, gender politics to family politics to actual politics, it's all here.

3 There's also lots for history buffs

From post-war politics to the smog that descended on London in 1952 and the mystery of Churchill's retirement portrait, there's lots here to engage the historically minded brain. Even if you know nothing about the Windsor family's past, the torrid tales of affairs and abdications are even more interesting because they're true.

4 The performances are fantastic

John Lithgow deserves a special mention for his portrayal of the British prime minister Winston Churchill, whose mannerisms, voice and gruff displays of emotion he absolutely nails. Jared Harris is a sympathetic George VI and very much looks the part, while Matt Smith's Prince Phillip is boorish and arrogant, yet also strangely alluring. And that's just the blokes.

Claire Foy's portrayal of a young woman with great responsibility thrust upon her is powerful in a reserved way, and her cut glass accent is spot on - as is her Royal wave. Vanessa Kirby all but steals the show as Elizabeth's wilful sister, while Victoria Hamilton is wrenching as the bereft Queen Mother.

5 There's plenty of cuteness

Animals are plenty and children abound, from the sweet flashbacks to young Elizabeth and Margaret to boyish Charles evoking images of little Prince George today - after all, they do dress similarly.

Of course, there are the dogs - Churchill's poodle, Edward and Wallis' pugs, and the Queen's litter of Corgis are all famous. Yet there are also horses to beat the band, giraffes, elephants - oh, and lots of birds and ducks shot for sport by King George VI and pals. But that part's not so cute.

6 You'll fall in love with Princess Margaret

It's not just her costumes, which are utterly fabulous. Nor is it simply her arc, that of the tragic heroine whose one true love is thwarted in the name of duty. And it's not the fact that she's an absolute brat who sticks it to her advisors whenever she gets half a chance. It's all of those things and more that make Kirby's Margaret the true star of the piece - a style icon that's also relatable, and who you'll root for till the bitter end.

Stream 'The Crown' on Netflix now

Irish Independent

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