I don’t know how Netflix spent $100 million on a 10-part drama about Queen Elizabeth II without me knowing about it until it became available. But they did, and they did a magnificent job.
Everything that Downton wasn’t
I know I am in the minority when I say that I hated Downton Abbey. I found it poorly written, dumbed-down, and derivative of much better earlier TV dramas, and perhaps worst of all, it tried to pack in so many historical events and soap opera twists that it just felt like a joke. The Crown on the other hand took about a decade of the Queen’s life (with flashbacks to earlier periods) and took its time telling the story of her ascension to the throne and her early years as queen. As much as I know about the Royal Family, I’m not entirely sure how much liberty they took with the facts, but they did it so well that I don’t really care so much. It is amazing how good TV can be when it is allowed to breathe.
A feast for the eyes
They really didn’t spare expense when it came to costumes, locations, and sets. They were so clever with establishing shots that there were times I wondered if they actually got permission to film at Buckingham Palace. Knowing that that was an impossibility, I started to look for clues or things that were out of place–there were a few, but still so well done that none of it bothered me. Her wedding to Philip, her coronation, foreign trips, vintage aircraft…it was all so nicely, and grandly done. And did I mention the jewels?
A story of real people
Although some of the story lines and characterizations were well known to me, others were either new, or so intimately told that I really felt like I was getting a peek behind the curtain. There are moments when the characters feel more like real people than royalty. This also means that there were liberties taken with personalities and behaviors which might rankle some. The Queen Mum probably fares the worst, Princess Margaret probably fares the best. But neither of them were one dimensional. And then there is a saucy moment or two…like Philip telling HM to, um, well, you’ll just have to watch it.
The acting was generally superb. John Lithgow’s Churchill was great even if he was too tall. Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary was fantastic. Matt Smith’s portrayal of Prince Philip makes one see where Prince Harry gets his devilish side. Claire Foy as HM is pretty brilliant. Vanessa Kirby was perhaps too tall to be Margaret, but the eyes and face were spot on. Not all characters were look-a-likes but since this isn’t a gimmicky production, that part doesn’t matter.
So worth watching. I’m hoping they make 10 more to take us into the 1960s and beyond.
We watched the first three episodes last night with not a high expectation in advance. Big budgets don’t always turn into watchable programmes. By the end though we were hooked because of the excelent portrayals by the key players and the level,of authenticity. A million miles superior to,Downton which starts well and then descended into mush. There are much better portrayals of Churchill but his height didn’t bother me as much as he failed to grasp the mans intonation. But I had few issues with the other characters. And if we thought the wedding was a lavish scene, we’d better hold onto our coronets for the coronation.
Wow! You make me want to get Netflix just to watch this show. Sounds amazing!! I enjoyed Downton, but can agree with you that it wasn’t the BEST by any means. I’m definitely looking forward to watching The Crown. Thanks for writing about it :)
Wow. Sounds like something to watch this weekend! Thanks. MDC
I liked Downton Abbey well enough, but I agree with *all* of your criticisms about it. It paled in comparison to Upstairs, Downstairs, which I think is what it was trying to be. I saw this show listed on Netflix and scrolled past it because I hadn’t heard of it, but I’ll certainly watch it now. Thank you so much for posting about it!
Thank you. We have watched the first three episodes and then realized that we must savor them and not gobble them all up. I am a perhaps irrational fan of the Queen Mum and hope that we will see her more. Actress Victoria Hamilton gave one of the best performances I have ever seen as Catherine Holly in “Suddenly Last Summer” so I hope that she gets more material.
I haven’t started this series yet but I think I see a binge-watch in my future (I’ve gotten hooked on the BBC series Misfits which could not be more different!). I did love Downton Abbey despite its flaws, though I agree Upstairs, Downstairs was the far superior drama. I’m also looking forward to the PBS/BBC drama Victoria which apparently is designed to fill the DA void. Thanks for sharing all the screenshots!
I keep evangelising about it to everyone I meet. People who’ve never heard of it must think I’m a lunatic Royalist…
My wife and I just finished watching all ten episodes and loved it. And we both agree with you that the writing is superior to Downton Abbey. I really liked the 9th episode which focused on a declining Churchill. I wonder why it is that, in so many of these high quality series, it is the penultimate episode that is usually one of the strongest. Anyway, thanks for the recommend. I was on the fence about this one but, after reading your comments, decided to give it a try.
The Downton parallels are unavoidable: it is beautiful, its cast is excellent (Downton’s, obviously, was overqualified for the swill they had to spout) and it has the same obsession with archaic institutions. But it is, I agree, so very very very very very much better. Incidentally (shameless plug alert) if anyone fancies chatting about plot specifics, I’m putting up episode recaps here: https://staircasewitsite.com/category/tv-reviews/
I watched it while back in Saskatchewan during the holidays – really enjoyed it! And I’m so pleased – and not all that surprised, really – that you, too, hated Downton Abbey. :-)