Somewhere in Clarence House, where King Charles and Queen Camilla still live, and Buckingham Palace is undergoing a $665 million renovation, flak jackets are unbuttoned and 80s-style hats are off.
Do you hear this sound? A long exhalation as the army of royal aides, courtiers and lackeys breathes a sigh of relief.
Here we are, a few days after the release Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Suss*x’s debut show on Netflix. The global reaction was mostly a collective shrug, with critical consensus generally ranging from “not good” to “sucks” to “why”?
Tensions have been building for weeks now, with Netflix touting Harry and Meghan as a “global event” – like the moon landing, but with more cashmere blankets. Freed from the restraints of royal rule, no longer surrounded by palace supporters and with an Oscar-winning director on hand, the couple were finally able to tell their story.
All bets were off and the hatches in London appeared to be battened down, with reports suggesting that the document would be “worse than the royals can imagine” and “utterly explosive…very destructive”.
Finally, Thursday night Harry and Megan arrived and the world tuned in.
Definitely a staggering rating: the series is currently the second most watched show on Netflix Australia at the time of writing (behind only The Addams Family spin off Wednesday).
Love or hate the Duke and Duchess of Suss*x, no doubt the world is generally quite obsessed with the duo, and whether it’s out of adoration, disgust or sheer curiosity, they’ve been watched by huge numbers of viewers around the world.
Such a performance should inspire the streamer’s executives and Team Suss*x, but the feedback? You might want to borrow one of the Palace’s stackable hats.
Washington Post called the show a “yawn” and the reviewer wrote, “Harry and Meghan are determined to control their story. The question is, do they have anything else to say?”
“Why [Harry] tells this story on the same platform that is currently using his mother’s sad life as entertainment in a mega-hit series. Crown remains unclear. Perhaps this is due to a large amount of money, ”said the representative of Germany. Der Spiegel asked a question.
Diversity, The bible of Hollywood entertainment reported: “The Suss*xes again surprise us with how narrow their vision of their fame, how limited and unimaginative their presence on the world stage has become.”
“They are nothing more than a vague actress and a fallen prince, united by the idea of selling to the highest bidder the story of their undying emptiness,” Slate journalist wrote.
Even the local Suss*x rag, Los Angeles Times did not cause much enthusiasm: “For all the hype, the long-awaited first three series did not really open up anything new.”
“Harry and Megan has all the affinity of Instagram” was the title The newspaper “New York Times a review stating that it “portrays former royals with a soft filter and lack of surprise”.
One Guardian the review called it “largely a one-sided PR stunt, with no critical or dissenting voices on the couples’ behavior or any tough issues.”
Lucy Mangan, writing in the same publication, described it as “so nauseating I almost brought my own breakfast” and said that “while there are sweet moments along with the puke-inducing moments, the main message of this royal documentary is that the late queen was right stand still.”
Irish times opinion was that it was “a pre-Christmas navel contemplation orgy that will make you glad there’s something to watch on Netflix and more importantly that we in this country aren’t burdened by royalty”, and called it “sometimes impossible to watch”. … dive into Planet Suss*x.”
ViewJoy Behar of Joy Behar said about it, “Honestly, I found the show boring. I’m sorry to say this.
No matter how many millions have been invested in this brilliant agitprop, all viewers have seen so far is a stream of private family photos and criticism of the Palace and the media, recycled from the couple’s interview with Oprah.
There was, we are told, an invisible “contract” between the royal family and the British press that the House of Windsor (who, let’s be honest, the outfit is whiter than the “after” frame in the Napisan ad) suffered from “an enormous level of unconscious bias” and that the Firm did not was able to protect Meghan when she faced the onslaught of the media.
Look, maybe all those hours of watching the duchess blow-drying emotion has affected me, because I don’t want to downplay any of those claims. To quote Harry, who seemingly completed his conversion to an orthodox Californian, this is their “life experience”.
But from a purely pragmatic point of view, we have been here before. There was no point they brought up in those first three hours of TV when people sat and paid attention other than the fact that they met on Instagram. (God, so their 2016. I bet they both took their spinners with them on that first date.)
It seems that in the UK, some pinstripe people are rubbing their hands happily and arguing about the spelling of the word gloating.
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the show other than refuting the statement made at the beginning of the document that they refused to take part.
However, royal friends have turned up to voice their feelings, and one friend of King Charles and Queen Camilla told Daily Beast: “It’s hard to understand what Netflix paid $100 million for. If that’s all they have to say, I really think the worst is over for the king.
Tom Sykes, knowledgeable in The Beast, wrote that “within a few hours of the episodes ending, communication between the senior palace aides and advisers had been established, but the prevailing feeling was one of relief.”
Sykes later reported that “insiders at Buckingham Palace are breathing a sigh of relief after the new Netflix show ‘Harry and Meghan’ failed to land any meaningful blows on King Charles or other members of the royal family.”
Another source told him: “A general feeling of relief and amazement. Relief that everything is so bad, and amazement that because of this, the family was blown up.
The big caveat here is that we’re only halfway there, and the show’s narrative only reached their wedding three episodes later.
Maybe all the hand grenades and oh my god moments are in the next “volume” coming out this coming Thursday covering the events of mid-2018 and Megzit’s convulsions. It may be too soon for the royal family to breathe easy.
There’s every chance that Harry and Meghan have a lot of ammo left, and the real b*mbs are yet to come.
While the royals and Netflix bosses may be happy with the way things are going, will the Suss*xes themselves be? Will the show’s popularity lead to a decent injection of Hollywood or cultural capital? Will it have any noticeable impact on how the world sees the monarchy or the UK? So far it doesn’t seem so.
There is also the question of whether the world, having tasted Harry and Meganwill continue to stay here for another three hours, telling the truth in soft light, when the second “volume” comes out this week.
In the UK on the first day 2.4 million tuned in before the first episode, 1.5 million stayed on the second episode and only 800,000 were still watching the third episode.
There’s another, less obvious way to read this situation: maybe Harry and Meghan just don’t care. They pocketed the money the streamer promised them and finally got the chance to tell the world their dewy story, even if we’ve heard it before.
Writer Briony Gordon, who became friends with Harry and later Meghan, wrote in The Telegraph: “Harry and Meghan don’t ask anyone to love what they say, just listen to them if they suddenly have a passing interest in what they say. story.”
Or maybe it all comes down to the old adage: “Any advertisement is a good advertisement.” Three years after they escaped the royal fence, the Suss*xes are still controversial and global figures despite failing to set the philanthropic world on fire.
As Oscar Wilde said, “There’s only one thing worse in life than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.”
Daniela Elser is a writer and royal commentator with over 15 years of experience working with a range of leading Australian media outlets.
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