Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's a Royal knockout

For possibly the first time ever, I feel a little sorry for the Queen at the moment. Usually she's quite dour of face and looks like she wouldn't be a great deal of fun, but I suppose if the world and his wife is intent on documenting your every move, past and present, before you're even dead, then you probably wouldn't have much reason to smile.

Channel 4 is currently running a series of 'docudramas' (cringe) about Her Maj, interspersing a load of people who aren't really pretty enough for telly waffling on about things that have happened with highly-fictionalised scenes from the Queen's life played by actors.

It's an odd show. Obviously, despite the red tops' headlines about her, the Queen herself is a relatively private person. Not for her the confessional autobiographies, tell-all tabloid freakshow or breakdown on her own reality programme. The writers have had to rely on third, fourth and probably fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth-hand accounts of what actually went on. And it shows. Boy, does it show.

I missed the first one which dealt with the oft-trodden path of Princess Margaret's scandalous affair with a divorced man. When drama The Queen's Sister tackled this, they wisely left the Queen out of it, instead opting to have her opinion out across by way of a highly-dramatised Prince Philip. The second one, dealing with the kidnapping attempt of Princess Anne in the 1970s, was my first glimpse. I suppose it could have been quite an interesting subject: the ridiculous audacity of the potential kidnapper and also the high drama that went with it. Channel 4, however, chose to pad out the story with Princess Anne and the Queen having little heart-to-hearts as if they were EastEnders characters chewing the fat not in the smoky confines of the Queen Vic but in the hallways of Buckingham Palace and in full view of about 100 servants. I'm not saying that the Queen talks like she's making a speech 24-7 but the pure soapiness of it all beggared belief. Even more incredible was a later scene that saw the Queen doing the washing up while Harold Wilson dried the dishes! What next? Camilla Parker-Bowles shouting 'I love you!' at Charles during his wedding? Perhaps the Queen could reveal at a state banquet that Philip is not Anne's father, or that she has been having an affair with the President of France, while everyone else has been eating Christmas dinner unawares.

Movies like The Queen and Frost/Nixon have accelerated the trend for 'real life' dramas. Fantasy and fiction aren't enough any more; nobody can be bothered trying to connect to new characters unless they can read about them in the paper every day. In order to survive, drama has had to follow the path beaten by gameshows and reality TV before it. Ordinary, average Joes don't pull in the viewers any more and with new celebrities being created at a rate of knots, it's easier than ever to fill a house or a jungle with a load of Z-listers or populate primetime gameshows with famous contestants.

And now it's drama's turn. Now film-makers don't even have the grace to wait until their subjects are dead before trivialising and soapifying their lives. The episode which documented the rift between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen was preposterous, more akin to a bitchfight between Alexis Colby and Krystle Carrington than a major constitutional sticking point. And beyond a wig, the actors don't even try that hard to be like the people they portray. We've heard the Queen speak, right? Are we really supposed to believe that once the cameras are off she lapses into a Home Counties brogue? Perhaps they thought that as long as they sounded 'a bit posh' they'd be OK. Team that with the clumsy dialogue and you've got an episode of Corrie that's dripping in jewels.

We are not amused, chuck.


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