Mercado on TV: The Crown has always been more of a soapie saga than a documentary

The Crown

Plus TV odd couples: Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock in Upright, Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani in Chivalry

Should the premiere of The Crown (Netflix) have been delayed because The Queen died two months ago? Maybe. Is the fifth series of this “fictional dramatisation” discombobulating because of yet another all-new cast? Absolutely.

The main roles in The Crown are now all played by big-name actors, although barely anyone looks like the Royal they are playing anymore. Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) is unmistakable, but Charles (Dominic West) is overly handsome and The Queen Mother (Marcia Warren) and Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville) could be anyone. It also doesn’t help that we have a cranky Queen (Imelda Staunton) not amused about weight gain and heading into “annus horribilis” territory.

The Crown

Elizabeth Debicki as Diana. Top photo: London premiere of The Crown with Jonny Lee Miller, Bela Bajaria, James Murray, Senan West, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Peter Morgan, Imelda Staunton, Suzanne Mackie, Jonathan Pryce, Ted Sarandos, Lesley Manville, Olivia Williams, Claudia Harrison and Marcia Warren

The Crown began its epic tale in 1947 and this was fresh history for much of its audience. Now it’s set in 1990 and more of its fans think they know this story. That could be why there is more discussion and controversy about its “accuracy”, despite it always being a soapie saga instead of a documentary. 

People like TV shows about the messy lives of rich people, because it proves that money doesn’t buy happiness. But what’s the attraction of workplace comedies where everybody is a loser? That formula was perfect in the US version of The Office, but its copycat shows are getting more and more desperate. 


Blockbuster (Netflix) might have worked if it was set in the 90s when VHS was all the rage. Instead, it’s set today when nobody goes to video stores anymore. Why was it ever made? Does Netflix think it’s ironic to point and laugh at something they helped destroy? Sorry, that’s unfair – there are no laughs to be had in Blockbuster.

A much safer sitcom option is to have two characters who are the opposite of each other, a la The Odd Couple. Chivalry (BBC First) pits an old-school movie producer (Steve Coogan) with a feminist independent director (Sarah Solemani), then adds Sienna Miller and Wanda Sykes in foul-mouthed supporting roles. It all works a treat – thumbs up. 

Upright season two

Milly Alcock and Tim Minchin in Upright

Upright (Tues on Fox Showcase) has Lucky (Tim Minchin) and Meg (Milly Alcock) on another road trip. This time they are in Queensland looking for another mother. New cast members like Hayley McElhinny and Noni Hazlehurst get some good material, but others, like Jeanette Cronin and Darren Gilshenan working together at a llama farm, feel like filler for a story that could be a bit forced. One thumb up.

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