Netflix UK TV review: The Windsors
James R | On 16, Dec 2017
Comedy dramas. Dramatic comedies. Fly-on-the-wall irony. Humour on TV has, in many ways, never been more sophisticated. Enter The Windsors, Channel 4’s new comedy about the Royal Family, which couldn’t be less sophisticated if it tried. That, however, turns out to be a very good thing.
After Netflix’s The Crown, you’d think that no one could hope to match its depiction of the royal family on screen. You’d be wrong. Rather than dial things down for a respectful tribute, or attempt to find common ground in a country divided by Brexit, Channel 4’s comedy turns everything up to 11. And it’s all the funnier for it.
Creators George Jeffries and Bert Tyler-Moore (Star Stories) aim straight for the lowest rung of the ladder in their portrayal of The Windsors – and then keep on diving. And so we’re treated to a dumb Prince Charles (played by Harry Enfield), a dumb, power-hungry Camilla (Haydn Gwynne), a dumb, gullible Kate, a dumb Wills (Hugh Skinner) with delusions of being a heroic helicopter pilot, and a dumb Harry (Richard Goulding), who’s just dumb.
If that sounds one-note, what’s impressive is just how many jokes that note delivers. Against all the odds, this is laugh-out-loud telly, as the satire skips the smart stuff and instead embraces the silliness of plausibility over political believability.
Haydn Gwynne’s Camilla is virtually Lady Macbeth, plotting to sabotage Kate and Will and seize the throne, while Morgana Robinson is a superbly scowling Pippa, seducing Harry with an Airfix model so she can become a princess too. At one point, Harry finds her diary detailing her plan. “Oh wow!” he exclaims. “If only I could read.” Skinner, meanwhile, who repeatedly stole scenes throughout W1A, is in his element, pushing his absurd persona to hilarious extremes with an adorable deadpan face, simpering and trying to be a man of the people with a dimwittedness that’s equal parts amusing and adorable.
More a cartoon than a live-action programme, despite it being entirely performed by real people, its absurd take on the Windsors couldn’t be more disconnected from the truth. Yes, there are Brexit references and jokes about Nigel Farage, not to mention constant nods to the Windsors’ Germanic roots, but this isn’t a comedy rooted in satire: this is an out-and-out farce and it only gets more and more ridiculous. Forget The Crown: this is an inspiredly stupid slice of telly that will have you giggling in spite of yourself.
The Windsors: Season 1 to 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.