TV review: The Royals, E!
Liz Hurley stars in this gloriously trashy, regal soap opera
After over 25 years of splashing entertainment news, celebrity gossip and reality TV across the box, E!'s first ever scripted drama opens with this cheeky exchange:
Lackey 1: 'You also have a fitting for the garden party'
Lackey 2: 'Followed by the charity photo-shoot'
Lackey 1: 'Oh, and Sir Elton John would like to pop around and say hello'
Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley): 'Pop around and say "hello"? You give someone a title and they treat the place like it’s a Starbucks.'
It perfectly sets the tone, Hurley's lines delivered with obvious relish and a twinkle in the eye. Recasting the Windsors as the ultimate soap opera family, The Royals doesn't pretend to offer any insight into the reality of regal life, but aims for Dynasty via Buckingham Palace. Hurley's Queen Helena is more Alexis Carrington than HRH Elizabeth II (it's also worth noting Joan Collins will be putting in an appearance as Helena's mother in future episodes).
The opening episode sees a high profile fatality rock the royal household. Very much riffing on the death of Princess Diana as the nation mourns and young Prince Liam (William Moseley) moves one step closer to the throne. King Simon (Vincent Regan) is devastated, but Queen Helena seems more concerned about the media coverage, while wild child Princess Eleanor (a perfect piece of casting, Alexandra Park looks uncannily like a young Hurley) tackles her grief by clubbing, popping pills and smoking pot while dodging the paparazzi.
It's all totally tongue in cheek, only the most staid, uptight and conservative viewer could be genuinely offended. Don't expect even a modicum of subtlety, laying on the love and scandal with a trowel, in particular Liam falling for the head of security's daughter Ophelia (Merritt Patterson) and Prince Cyrus (Jake Maskall), Simon's brother, as the smarmy, manipulative villain of the piece. The Royals refuses to take itself seriously, emphasised by Lydia Rose Bewley and Hatty Preston's ultra-posh comedy double act blatantly inspired by Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, complete with ridiculous headwear.
The reality is The Royals is terrible, but there's something that keeps you glued to every outrageous minute. The impossibly glam cast never really capture any emotional depth and the novelty will probably wear off, but for now it is deliciously trashy, shamelessly campy, more than a little bit tacky but undeniably entertaining. A superficially scandalous guilty pleasure.
The Royals premieres on E!, Wed 25 Mar, 9pm.