Almost Royal is Almost Good

Georgie and Poppy Carlton watch Revolutionary War demonstrations on Almost Royal
Almost Royal (Photo: Burning Bright Productions / BBC America)

BBC America gets into the scripted comedy game with its mock travelogue series Almost Royal. It’s almost good. Almost.

Show

Almost Royal, back-to-back episodes air at 10pm Saturdays on BBC America.

Premise

Fulfilling their father’s dying wish, Georgie (Ed Gamble) and Poppy Carlton (Amy Hoggart) take a road trip across America. The two are, respectively, 50th and 51st in line for the throne, so they had a slightly different upbringing than us common folk. This show is a travelogue of their stateside visit.

Pedigree

The producers include Clive Tulloh, who has done documentaries with Eddie Izzard and Dame Edna, and Seamus Murphy-Mitchell, who works on talk show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. This is BBC America’s first (semi?-)scripted comedy production, but the network is trying to bank on BBC mothership’s comedy history (Absolutey FabulousThe Young Ones, many many MANY more).

Who is Almost Royal For?

People who watch BBC America because they are Anglophiles rather than DVRing reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What Works

The first episode opens with Georgie and Poppy explaining how their father died in a horrific shooting accident delivered in an as a matter of fact tone. I was instantly reminded of interviews in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, though the camera work did not play as heavily into the tropes of documentary filmmaking. As this is supposed to be a cable travelogue, the structure and narration is not unlike House Hunters International1, offering a quick recap of what happened in the segments prior to the commercial break before moving on to the next scenes.

What Doesn’t Work

Georgie and Poppy are far too clever for the characters they are portraying. They are far enough away from the throne for their ruse to work (50th/51st vs. 4th), but they should be close enough to royalty to not be up on their pop culture references. For example, there is a Downton Abbey joke moments in to the first episode that undercuts the aloofness that should make this premise work. It is also unclear whether the people they are interacting with are in on the joke, as their reactions are far too muted. Either they are scripted or Georgie and Poppy’s antics aren’t landing. Either way, it is not translating through the screen.

Verdict

I mean, it’s on Saturday nights so even BBC America isn’t expecting this to be the Next Big Thing. It’s not terrible television, but don’t feel like you need to go out of your way to track it down. The clips used for the commercials during Orphan Black are the strongest bits, so don’t expect much more.

  1. It may even be the same narrator?  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv