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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. Elizabeth may look young and frightened as the curtain rises on her Netflix story, 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. As we see in The Crown, she comes of age in a challenging time. The wounds of World War II are still fresh. The monarchy continues to reel from her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicating the throne for his American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Society is evolving at a supersonic pace, and some are beginning to question the need for a king or queen at all. She's just 25 when her father, George VI, dies. At an age when many of us are still wondering who we are and looking for our first real job, Elizabeth inherits an empire.

And everyone wonders whether she's up to the task.

Even though the job of being a British royal is largely ceremonial in nature, that doesn't dampen palace tension and intrigue one bit. Philip Mountbatten, Elizabeth's dashing husband, sometimes chafes in his role as Mr. Queen Elizabeth. Margaret, Elizabeth's sister, is having a fling with the married Captain Peter Townsend: Peter's subsequent divorce and proposal to Margaret became tabloid fodder for months. Edward and Wallis continue to wrinkle the monarchy's starched sheets. 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, beginning with her marriage to Philip.

"Not a single person supported the match," sniffs Mary, the Queen Mother. "She turned us all on our heads and barely opened her mouth in the process." During the wedding, Elizabeth—the future ruler of a globe-spanning Commonwealth—promises to "love, honor and obey" her husband.

"Obey?" Clementine Churchill whispers to her famous husband, Winston.

"She insisted," he grunts back. "It was discussed."

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 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.

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.

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.

But the show is rated TV-MA for a reason: When there is content, it can be fairly extreme. 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.

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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

The Crown: Nov. 4, 2016 "Wolferton Splash"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II; Matt Smith as Prince Philip; Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret; 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

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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