TV review: The Queen and I, Sky One
- Brian Donaldson
- 20 December 2018
A fluffy if lumpen imagining of Britain without the Royal Family
In late 1992, the Queen gave a speech in which she coined the phrase 'annus horribilis'. Translated into regular parlance as 'a shit year', the monarch reflected on the marriage breaks-up of Prince Andrew and Princess Anne, Diana's tell-all revelations published by Andrew Morton, and the Windsor Castle blaze. Indeed, not the greatest 12 months of Elizabeth's reign, but at least her family wasn't booted out of Buck House after the election of the Republican Party. This is the premise of the Sue Townsend book from that very same year of 1992, squished tightly here into 72 minutes of airtime.
Led by new PM Jack Barker (David Walliams, an ever-present on our Christmas small screens these days, it seems, whether you like it or not), Britain has decided it's time up for the regal spongers and while the nation's assets are sold off for an intensive programme of funding for schools, prisons and hospitals, the Windsor crew is immediately relocated to a council estate in the Midlands. While the likes of Elizabeth (Samantha Bond), her mum (Julia McKenzie), Charles (Oliver Chris), Anne (Amanda Abbington) and Margaret (Frances Barber) initially struggle to blend in, they soon find allies and a common ground as we head towards an inevitably schmaltzy ending.
The late Townsend described herself as politically 'to the left of Lenin', but she clearly had a soft spot for the royals, and is pretty much suggesting here that the country would fall apart without them. This production leaves out Diana and the Duke of Edinburgh (perhaps concerned that between the end of filming and its transmission date, the 97-year-old might not be kicking around), while resurrecting the Queen Mum and Margaret (who further messes with the timeline by vaping away).
As enjoyably fluffy as The Queen and I ends up being, the comedy is a bit lumpen and the satirical points unclear. But if you like the idea of Charles being temporarily locked away at his mum's pleasure, then this will while away some time on Christmas Eve.
The Queen and I is on Sky One, Monday 24 December, 6pm.