By Emma Silverthorn @HouseOf_Gazelle
As the tag line goes The Royals is like Gossip Girl on coke, a tagline which I have to somewhat ashamedly admit attracted me. And yes the Gossip Girl parallels do abound. Youthful, attractive delinquents and delinquents with secretly big hearts populate The Royals as they do in GG. As well as a half-baked attempt at critiquing the danger of conforming to social pressures rather than your hearts’ desires. In GG this means Lily van der Woodsen’s decision to marry three millionaires under her bitch mother’s duress (CeCe Rhodes), before Lily finally breaks free to follow her heart and marry the rock-star of her dreams Rufus Humphrey’s. In The Royals case this means Queen Helena’s (Liz Hurley’s) decision to marry the King of England over the hot soldier she’s really in love with, also under her Queen Bitch mother’s duress, her mother being Joan Collins.
In both series the creators appear to be aiming for some sort of moral message amidst all the debauchery and back-stabbing, tailoring perhaps to it’s demographics’ parents. The demographic for both shows is surely the teenage girl. Past the age of nineteen one should really not be spending hours in front of Netflix glued to GG or watching The Royals on E! but alas there’s worse things I could be doing, for example behaving like the shows’ characters.
Gossip Girl is a guilty pleasure, it’s materialistic and sexist and aside from this the characters are infuriatingly inconsistent, not in the way that all people are but in an unbelievable the shows-writers forgot/don’t care what happened in series one kind of way. Not to mention the casual way attempted rape is treated in Season one, Episode one (good Jezebel piece on that here).
But, (if you can wipe that episode from your mind), then the show is mostly a bit of fun. New York looks bloody amazing in it, Chuck Bass is a wonderful and hilarious caricature of an eighteen year old playboy, there’s some really beautiful clothes to look at and it’s got a cheesy message about the importance of family and friendship at its’ terrible heart.
The Royals on the other hand doesn’t even have this flimsy set of credentials to hold the viewers attention. OK it is rather fun seeing Liz Hurley as the Queen of England and some of the palace scenes are interesting in the way that visiting a stately home is but the show is lacking the, dare I say it, occasionally clever script of GG as well as it’s lame, cornball centre. Not that The Royals doesn’t try to achieve some sense of heart. There’s an attempt to create a warming female-friendship bond between Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and Prince Liam’s (William Moseley’s) lowly girlfriend, the incredibly dull American Ophelia (Merritt Patterson). There’s also a close sibling relationship portrayed (between Liam and Eleanor) but portrayed so thinly that I just didn’t care. And the King himself is continually set up as a heroic figures, yet he’s generally such a cringe-worthy one, (‘the charlatans, and the con-men and the wicked people of this world drive us away from each other’ he says emotionally during a TV broadcast aiming to bring the nation closer together), that one would rather side with his abusive, devilish brother Cyrus (Jake Maskall). (N.B: Cyrus never achieves the appeal of Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass.)
Alas, being over thirty, perhaps I’m simply too old for this. Who is creator Mark Schwahn aiming for then? The skewer is likely the above mentioned teenage girls as well as young royalists I imagine. There are clear caricatures of the actual Royals in The Royals. Of course these characters are being made fun of here but I still feel it’s only those who actually enjoy stories about Princess Eugenie and Beatrice that would find these send-ups funny. In this golden age of television The Royals doesn’t seem like your best choice, or even your best choice for one of those mindless, zone-out watches we all sometimes crave. Down with The Royals!
The complete first season of the The Royals is out on DVD now, it was released July 6th.