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Friday 15 December 2017

Monarchy madness

Diamond Queen Monday, BBC1 True Blood Sunday, FX Being Human Sunday, BBC3 Rasai na Gaillimhe 2 Wednesday, TG4

I'm the motherflippin' Queen," she says, a fag hanging from her lip and a copy of Monarch's Monthly clenched in her paw. She's been door-stepped by dogged reporter Andrew Marr. "I got rights!" she says.

Sadly this didn't happen in Diamond Queen. I'd hoped Marr's documentary series on the British monarch would be a behind-the-scenes expose of her high-end welfare dependency (I hear she got a free yacht from the state! I hear she's on the top of the housing list! I hear she drives an illegal taxi at weekends!).

But although Marr is usually an incisive journalist, when dealing with royalty, like many Britons, reason leaves him.

"Lawks, I love Queen Bess!" he might as well have said, as he stood a restraining-order's distance away from her at public events.

"She's an English Rose!" he might have gasped, as he recounted her riches-to-riches "struggle".



myths

Amid the archive footage, Princess Beatrice showed us the queen's childhood 'Wendy house' (bigger than my real house), Prince William said she was an inspiration (she is, I suppose, the only person doing the job he wants to do when he grows up) and propaganda myths of selfless royal patriotism were shamelessly rehashed.

Like how the Queen Mother took up shooting in the '40s "in case she had to make a last stand against German paratroopers" (picture the film: Arnold Schwarzenegger is The Queen Mum in Die Nazis Die!).

For non-British people it's too weird. A democracy headed by a monarch is as odd as one headed by a yeti, a unicorn or a duck. Marr takes weird for granted. So when we see her ceremonially greeting a goat at an event in Wales, there's no explanation.

All I wanted was for him to say "Now, the queen meets a regimental mascot", or "here we see the queen conversing with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Fluffingdon" or "Prince Philip dons his goat outfit, as is tradition". But no, Marr's documentary is not concerned with the identity of mere goats. He wants to ponder bigger questions such as: Why is the queen so brilliant?



power

So we ponder that. And what do we learn? Well, she's a little old lady who symbolises power but wields none, and who travels the world making foreigners feel good about UK policy.

She's the Shaking Hands Champion of Britain, a powerless head of state, who meets the Prime Minister for an hour a week so she can feel relevant (it's like giving a toddler a fake steering wheel on car journeys). And what do we learn about Andrew Marr? That he wants a knighthood really badly.

There was another British queen on vampire drama True Blood: Queen Mab, queen of the fairies. True Blood began as a high-camp tale of vampire/human sexcapades -- a sort of Carry On Vampires set in the US deep south. Creator Alan Ball asked what man has asked for millennia: "What if there were supernatural creatures among us? Could we have sex with them?"

He has since expanded his remit to include the sex-antics of witches, shape-shifters and, more recently, 'fairies' . . . or, as I'm sure US audiences see them: 'the English'.

This episode featured these pasty-faced beings moaning in RP tones through bad teeth about how great things were when they had an empire.



hunks

Not even Alan Ball could make this sexy, so it ended with Sookie, the blooming, wide-eyed ingenue, being creepily leered at by more vampire hunks.

The best drama about monsters-amongst-us is still the excellent Being Human, which grounds its supernatural tales not in high-octane camp but in realism and humour.

Our own vampiric overlords, however, appear in TG4's winning comedy-drama Rasai na Gaillimhe, which lampoons gombeen politicians at the races. Disturbingly it sometimes feels like a documentary. So maybe we should be ruled by a queen . . . or a unicorn . . . or a duck.

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