Is The Royals the worst series ever made? Probably
It's frequently said that nobody ever deliberately sets out to make a bad television series. If you can hack your way through tonight’s opening episode of The Royals, the first scripted drama from E!, without lapsing into catatonia, you might have your doubts about that.
We knew this was going to be bad. E! is the home of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, after all, so it was a safe bet The Royals wasn’t aimed at people who loved Wolf Hall.
But as to just how bad it is, well, put it this way: the reviewer in The Sydney Morning Herald called it “possibly the worst show in the history of TV”.
Strewth, cobber, if the bloke’s speaking a word of a lie then I’ll change me name to Crocodile Dundee – now lob another shrimp on the barbie, Sheila, and fetch me a cold tinny and a Vegemite sandwich.
One part of me would like to believe that The Royals is a spoof; that everyone involved in it set out, tongues lodged firmly in cheeks, to do an elaborate piss-take of Dallas, Dynasty and all those other soapy series about rich, dysfunctional families, using the richest, most dysfunctional family of all as raw material.
But they didn’t. The Royals is just atrocious, plain and simple. There’s nothing more complex or clever or knowing to it than that.
Set in the kind of fantasy England that makes The Simpsons’ version look like the work of Ken Loach, it stars Liz Hurley as Queen Helena, a superbitch who sashays around in various breast-hugging designer dresses, spraying bile in all directions and swinging her hips so violently they could knock over a line of Horse Guards.
Hurley is a terrible actress. To be fair to the woman, she appears to realise she’s a terrible actress and gives it her terrible worst when spitting out dialogue like this: “Let me recap my week for you. My daughter’s vagina was on the cover of no less than four tabloids. My first-born child was killed. My husband wants to abolish the only life I’ve ever known, and his footman nearly saw my snatch.”
Okay, the above paragraph is going to need a little background explanation. The Queen’s daughter Eleanor (played by a dead-ringer for Kristen Stewart complete with permanently half-open mouth) is an unhappy, kohl-eyed, hedonistic tart who hits the headlines for getting plastered in a nightclub while wearing a micro-dress but no knickers.
The family’s most beloved son dies on military duty, leaving his brother Prince Liam (yes, a royal called Liam) as the next in line to the throne . . . if, that is, there’s still a throne left.
Helena’s hubby King Simon (yes, a royal called Simon), played by Vincent Regan, the only other recognisable face in a nothing cast, is so fed up with his horrible wife and useless family that he walks the streets of London alone at night, pondering whether he should give the people of his kingdom the choice of getting rid of the monarchy.
As for the other bit, that’s the scene where a footman, who for some unexplained reason is in the Queen’s bedroom, accidentally catches a forbidden glimpse of her crown jewel while she’s peeling off another designer dress to reveal some sexy underwear.
Rather than sending him to the Tower of London to be disembowelled, then decapitated – or even sacked without any references – the Queen rolls her eyes and curls her lip.
I’ll admit to laughing a few times during The Royals. It’s hard not to when the script is this dreadful, the performances by the younger cast as wooden as an Ikea showroom and the whole thing cheesier than a guided tour of the Kilmeaden factory.
But the unintentional humour doesn’t carry it very far and the so-bad-it’s-good appeal wears very thin very quickly. At the end of the day, trash without self-awareness is just trash.