The Crown: Netflix Does the Queen For American Audiences (Review)

Logo for The Crown on Netflix

It is difficult not to be overly cynical about Netflix’s latest offering.  The Crown appears to  have been cast with it’s intended audience in mind; the Americans with their total fascination with all things royal. The former Dr. Who, another American fixation, Matt Smith is Prince Philip.

Another familiar face comes from the modernized series  Upstairs Downstairs, which may rank right up there with Dr. Who as an addiction for the US. (Although nowhere near as popular as Downton Abbey.)   Actress Claire Foy made a name for herself in this program playing Lady Persephone Towyn.  Both actors are as English as fish and chips and both are well known for their work in the United Kingdom’s entertainment industry.

Jared Harris, son of the late great Richard Harris, is King George VI. Yet nother familiar face lately seen in SyFy’s The Expanse and from any number of films and television shows.  The London born actor has worked in a number of American productions and is equally familiar to the targeted demographic. 

All three make perfect sense in terms of casting. The only confusing factor in this series is the casting of John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. He is, beyond a shadow of doubt, an expert craftsman. Lithgow has been nominated twice for an Oscar and has chops for days. But…Winston Churchill?

He may well look the part but he does seem to be an odd choice. More to the point, Lithgow does not sound like Churchill. It takes the viewer right out of the moment.

On the plus side, the dialogue is wonderfully spot on. Lines like “Chance would be a fine thing,” the naughty limerick that the King indulges in and Prince Philip’s “Bugger” are all delightedly on point.

Sadly the one thing missing is that nasal twang that the Queen is so well known for.  It is also unfortunate that so little time is spent on the Queen Mother.  This tiny woman was revered by the entire nation while she lived. We get a brief glance of her, with a feathered hat, and that is it. She may well turn up later in future episodes.

One can only hope.

(On a sidenote: It was wonderful to see good old “Inspector Boney” aka Kiwi actor James Laurenson who has been treading the boards since 1965. Laurenson plays Dr. Weir in three episodes.)

This historical look at the woman who is Britain’s longest reigning monarch should be, at the very least, educational. The writers have included some vernacular specific to the time period and the country.

Elizabeth II became queen in 1952 after King George died of consumptive heart failure.  She was crowned over a year later on 2 June 1953.

The Crown is reported to be the most expensive Netflix Original series to date. The budget per episode is rumored to be in the $5 million mark.  The slightest things in each scene are said to be authentic as possible. This inflated price tag for set dressing and costumes may explain the lack of more “name” actors in key roles.

Peter Morgan is the show’s creator and he has come up with a loving tribute to the Queen spaced out over 10 episodes.  There are rumors that there will be another season as well. 

The Crown looks brilliant. It feels as English as afternoon tea with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.  The casting, withholding all that previously mentioned  cynicism, is pretty much spot on.  With the exception of Lithgow, each performer fills their character’s shoes rather well.

Claire Foy has the thankless job of portraying Her Majesty, the Queen, and she does come very close to matching the sheer beauty that Elizabeth exhibited “back in the day.’

Smith seems to be laying the  groundwork for Prince Philip as the man who, in later years, give the PC crowd heart palpitations when speaking his mind. His most infamous, in recent years, was his warning to British students that they would “become slitty-eyed” if they stayed too long in China.

Phillip is just passing on a tradition started by his father-in-law King George VI. The man obviously loves a good, or not so good,  joke. It would not be surprising to learn that the prince likes “dirty” limericks as well.

The Crown has all 10 episodes streaming on Netflix.  Fans of The King’s Speech and, as mentioned above, Downton Abbey, will love this look at Queen Elizabeth.


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