November 15, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Royals”


THE ROYALS:  Sunday 10PM on E!

THE ROYALS has been, if not much else, an effective demonstration of branding by E!.  Its first scripted series, recounting the antics of a fictional British royal family, fit in well with the network’s more established business of depicting the antics of the emptily wealthy in an unscripted (or more accurately, “unscripted”) form.  While not a breakout hit, the show did well enough in the ratings to earn its Season 2 renewal.

Season 1 was far from great drama, but it became more trashily compelling as it went along, and perhaps the same will happen in Season 2.  Things are off to an unpromising start, however.  Based on the season premiere, written and directed by series creator Mark Schwahn, this season is designed more as a mystery and revenge saga, and it’s a rather glum one.  We picked up more or less where we had left off, with Prince Liam (William Moseley) and Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) deposed from the royal succession after their witchy mother, Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), revealed that they were not the biological children of her husband, the now-murdered King Simon–although actually they probably are.  (Simon’s killing was a particularly sad occurrence for the show as well as for Liam and Eleanor, because Vincent Regan, who played Simon, gave by far the strongest performance to be found.)  In Season 2, Liam and Eleanor will try to solve the murder, while suffering under the reign of their appalling uncle Cyrus (Jake Maskall), now the King, that is they will when Eleanor isn’t burying her nose in coke and Liam can spare time between self-righteous tantrums.

The Royals is the opposite of subtle:  in case it wasn’t clear that Cyrus is a cartoon ogre, the premiere had him cooking and eating a swan just for the hell of it, and the clue that a mysterious organization whose logo Liam found on a locket around his neck the night his father was killed had involvement in the murder was confirmed when the same logo was found flaming in the Buckingham Palace gardens.  A concentration on the murder conspiracy plotline has removed, at least for the moment, most of the show’s good humor and romance, with last season’s Cinderella figure Ophelia, who became Liam’s girlfriend, apparently gone, and Eleanor almost certainly settling in for another go with Jasper (Tom Austen), her sometime bodyguard and lover, whose history of duplicitous acts include sex with Eleanor’s mother, and whose continued presence is hard to justify in any sane way.

We don’t know what happened behind the scenes between seasons, but there appears to have been some budget cutting, as along with the reduced cast–Liam’s pal and security officer Marcus was also unseen–the visuals are becoming alarmingly cheap, with digital backgrounds and badly-lit sets in evidence.  (We also seem to have a piece of recasting coming our way, although probably not for budget reasons, as one of Cyrus’s imbecilic daughters was seen tonight wrapped in plastic surgery bandages, presumably to emerge as a different actress.)

Nobody expects much from The Royals in the way of quality, just a bit of tawdry but enjoyable storytelling.  If Schwahn and team can’t keep up their end, though, there’s far more than enough on cable Sundays to stage a coup for its crown.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."