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TV Series Review

It's easy for Mel Brooks to say, "It's good to be the king." He isn't one.

Sure, the gig has its perks: palaces, servants, galas galore. But peek into Netflix's lavish new series The Crown—which focuses on the life, times and reign of England's Queen Elizabeth II—and you get a sense that royalty isn't all just fairy-tale days and happily-ever-after endings. And sometimes, it's not good to be the queen at all.

Heavy is the Head …

There's little real suspense in The Crown. Now in Season 3, the Queen’s in a new season, too—played by Olivia Colman (who won an Oscar for playing another English queen, Queen Anne). Elizabeth may look like a confident, middle-aged monarch in the show, but we know the real Queen Elizabeth is still puttering around Buckingham Palace with her hats and her corgis. Now in her 90s, she's staggeringly popular these days, and more than 75% of Brits say the monarchy has an important role for the kingdom's future.

But her history wasn't set at the time of her 1953 coronation. And as the world moves from the relatively staid 1950s through the wild, tumultuous decades to come, Elizabeth weathers more than her fair share of challenges: Why, just in the third season alone, she must deal with a Soviet mole, navigate growing anti-monarchist sentiment, ease her hubby through a midlife crisis and, of course, deal with her always glamorous, usually misbehaving and sometimes heartbroken sister.

And everywhere Elizabeth goes, there are plenty of folks—both inside and outside the family—ready to nitpick her every move.

But throughout the show, we see hints of the quiet strength that powers the queen through her troubled times. In these exchanges, we see Elizabeth's paradoxes: her velvet grace and steel resolve, her commitment to tradition in a rapidly changing age.

A Crowning Achievement?

The Crown is, above all, a spectacle. The first season alone reportedly cost Netflix $130 million to produce, making it the most expensive television show ever. Much of that cost was spent on the series' extraordinary costumes. While the real Queen Elizabeth reportedly saved ration coupons to pay for her wedding dress, the Netflix duplicate took six embroiderers six weeks to create.

It's an ambitious production, too. Netflix reportedly hopes to run six seasons of the show, each spanning roughly a decade of Elizabeth's reign. It features a cast of illustrious actors and promising newcomers, and the whole affair has an unmistakable prestige-TV sheen to it. Claire Foy, who played Elizabeth for the first two seasons, has snagged some important awards just to prove the point. And with Colman and two-time Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter on tap for seasons 3 and 4, playing the Queen and Princess Margaret, respectively, expect more of the same.

But in terms of its ethical quality, The Crown falls a bit short of being a jewel.

Granted, it's better than many prestige television shows. It's great to see people who take their jobs so seriously, ceremonial though they may be—a nice telegenic pick-me-up after the United States' own difficult political season. And in keeping with the royal family's decorous image, Netflix exercises a degree of restraint. Unlike the very different monarchical struggle Game of Thrones, The Crown does not bombard its viewers with unremitting content. Some episodes can be nearly content free.

But the show is rated TV-MA for a reason: When there is content, it can be fairly extreme. Cameras burst into bedrooms and stream the unrobed, uncensored and sometimes utterly shocking activities therein. Unclothed princely and princessly bodies flash on screen. Language can be, even in this age of license, shocking. And even when the content isn't explicit, there's always an implicit unseemliness at work behind the palace doors.

Netflix knows that royal watchers love a good scandal, and it gives them as much as it can dig out of the tabloid headlines.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Nov. 17, 2019: "Olding"
The Crown: Dec. 8, 2017 "Misadventure"
The Crown: Nov. 4, 2016 "Wolferton Splash"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II (seasons 1 and 2); Matt Smith as Prince Philip (seasons 1 and 2); Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret (seasons 1 and 2); Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary; Jeremy Northam as Anthony Eden; Victoria Hamilton as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother; Ben Miles as Peter Townsend; Greg Wise as Lord Louis Mountbatten; Jared Harris as King George VI; John Lithgow as Winston Churchill; Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II (season 3); Tobias Menzies as Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (season 3); Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret (season 3); Ben Daniels as Antony Armstrong-Jones (season 3); Jason Watkins as Prime Minster Harold Wilson; Erin Doherty as Princess Anne; Jane Lapotaire as Princes Alice; Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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