Available now, Netflix
The Real Marigold On Tour
Oh hello, The Crown, you’re back. Welcome, welcome, welcome, although, ten hour-long episodes later, after a binge-watch, wun does come out the other side to find wun’s use of language has been rather orfully affected. ‘Has the postman been and gorn?’ I have found myself asking, along with, ‘Must you relly wear that?’ and, ‘Who’s drunk awl the milk?’ I’m not making wedding plans at present, but if I were, I’d almost certainly be asking, as Princess Margaret did, ‘Shall we get merried in the abbey?’
It takes you over, this series. It could so easily have been a long, dry slog through recent, familiar history but instead it’s properly captivating. Relly, it is. This second series of the royal drama roughly covers the decade from 1954, and has Claire Foy reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth, who would seem an unlikely dramatic subject, given she has only one job, which is to be as boring as is humanly possible.
Claire Foy in The Crown. After a binge-watch, wun does come out the other side to find wun’s use of language has been rather orfully affected
In other words, dispassionate, neutral and non-controversial without, say, any Tony Soprano-style outbursts of the kind that might see her shoot someone in the head, then throw them in the river. But writer Peter Morgan so brilliantly locates her in the space between who she has to be and who she might otherwise wish to be that she becomes not just three-dimensional but also wondrously sympathetic.
It’s a measure of his script that we can still feel for someone so extraordinarily privileged that she never has to dress or undress herself, and has likely never changed a lightbulb or run to the all-night garage so there is milk for the morning. (In less privileged households, this is what has to happen when the milk is awl gorn.) Yet we befriend her and, sensibly, Morgan also keeps this as an Upstairs, Upstairs endeavour unlike, say, ITV’s Victoria, which would often switch attention to downstairs and the scullery maid in love with the footman, who may be gay. However, maybe this is just what has to happen if you fail to make your queen interesting enough.
The opening gambit this time has the Queen and Prince Philip (Matt Smith) aboard a stormtossed ship, privately confronting a crisis in their marriage – he is fed up of playing second fiddle and has the hots for a ballet dancer. The narrative then spools back in time, but we’re up to speed again by the third episode, when the exact same scene is replayed word for word. The action cleverly loops and arcs like this throughout, breaking off at some juncture and picking it up again a few episodes down the line, as Philip, who has quite a traumatic back story – I had no idea! – brings himself to heel.
Meanwhile, events unfold on the world stage (the Suez crisis, problems with the Commonwealth – ‘The Queen is dancing, sir! With an African!’) as do events in-house. Here, Edward VIII (Alex Jennings) is forced to confront his Hitler-loving past, Jackie Kennedy comes to tea, and heartbroken Margaret (Vanessa Kirby – wonderful) accepts a grudging proposal from Antony Armstrong-Jones (yes, they will get merried at the abbey).
Of course, half the time this is all told with so much poetic licence that you have to ask yourself, ‘Did that relly happen?’ but, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter because it feels as if it did. (Aside, that is, from Jackie Kennedy coming to tea – would she and the Queen have ever had quite such a revelatory tête-à-tête?) But it’s Foy who pins it all down by commandeering the emotional centre of every scene, so we are always on the Queen’s side, and even understand why she could never be much of a mother. Still, poor Charles at Gordonstoun. That was truly orful.
On the grounds that you can’t watch any other drama in tandem with The Crown, as its meticulous, hugely expensive production values would only make it appear shabby – and that includes you, Midsomer Murders! – when I looked up briefly, it was only to catch The Real Marigold On Tour.
A spin-off from The Real Marigold Hotel, this had our older ‘celebrities’ – as ever, I use the term loosely – ostensibly discovering what it would be like to grow old in China. In fact, it’s just an excuse to send them on an adventure, and that’s fine, as I’m all for older people having adventures, even if it does mean they constantly shout, ‘DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?’ into people’s faces.
As ever, this was often in danger of becoming The Miriam Margolyes Show, as she bagged the best room and threw a hissy fit while at the swimming pool, but then she did show true vulnerability when, having always longed to meet a panda, she finally came face to face with one and wept. ‘So beautiful,’ she kept saying, as she dabbed her eyes. However, whether the panda had long dreamed of meeting Miriam? Wun just does not know…