Archive for April 11th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

This series, which arrived on Netflix in late 2016, is a modern gem. It is not another Downton Abbey, for it is smarter and more sophisticated than that highly enjoyable soap opera. This series, from creator and writer Peter Morgan, and produced by occasional director Stephen Daldry, charts the course of The Crown-which is a metonym for both the state and the monarch-since the death of King George the VI, with a focus on the lives of Elizabeth the 2nd and her closest family. This is a spectacular achievement, one of the best and most ambitious of current series. With the cast set to change every two seasons, the likelihood of this one getting stale is low. Claire Foy and Matt Smith acquitted themselves beautifully as Elizabeth and Philip in the first two seasons. We shall see how Olivia Coleman does for seasons three and four, and how much chemistry she has with Tobias Menzies, as these are the actors tapped to play Elizabeth and Philip for the next two seasons. Oh, and as an aside, season three sees Helena Bonham Carter join the cast as Princess Margaret.

If this seems focused on casting that is because so much of this series has relied on thrilling performances and sterling writing. The first season also featured Jarred Harris, in flashbacks, as George, and John Lithgow in an Emmy winning season-long performance, as Winston Churchill. Where the first season charted Elizabeth’s early years with Churchill as prime minister, the second season focused on her relationship with Philip and how Philip always seemed to be just on the cusp of some scandal, including, by the end of the second season, the Profumo Affair. Throughout the first two seasons, however, is the backbone of Philip as a proud man who expected to have a wife first and a queen second, and to be able to have a wife before having a queen for a bit longer but, due to George’s untimely passing, did not. In a sense, this is a series about a marriage and how the duty of one affects everyone else, including siblings and spouses.

There are many loving, thrilling and beautiful shots of scenery, and historical asides, including the deadly London Smog of 1952, trips to Africa by the royal couple and Philip’s goodwill cruise around the world to begin season two, among many others. The historical details are mostly on point, and the royal family has largely refrained from comment-though season two brought some heat with its focus on the peccadilloes of Phillip-and this is because while Morgan has not been afraid of showing the truth about the Royal Family, he has been very respectful in making sure to avoid the same level of salaciousness one would typically expect in a telling of these stories. This is still a fictionalized account of real people, but it is as true as we can expect without this becoming a documentary. One example would be the secretary in season one who succumbs to the Smog, a character and therefore death, which never existed. (more…)

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Note:  The review of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea scheduled here will be posted within the week, though the stop gap space is here now to keep the countdown in the correct sequence.

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