The Crown (Netflix)
A Murder at the End of the World (Disney+)
Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure (Channel 4) | channel4.com
The Curse (Paramount+)
Forgive me, for I loved every wicked, wrong, tasteless, delicious moment of “Ghost Diana”, who, as rumoured, appears during the first four-episode drop of the final series of Peter Morgan’s royal drama The Crown (Netflix).
Ghost Diana (Elizabeth Debicki, who also plays her alive) first appears to a snotty, weepy Prince Charles (Dominic West) on a plane after he has, wailingly, viewed her body in a Paris hospital, following her death in the 1997 car crash with suitor Dodi Fayed and their driver. “Thank you for how you were in the hospital,” simpers Ghost Diana to Charles. “So raw, broken and handsome.” There is more in that excruciating vein.
Later, Ghost Di joins the Queen (Imelda Staunton) as she watches TV footage of public outpourings of grief. “For as long as anyone can remember, you have taught us what it means to be British. Maybe it’s time to show you’re ready to learn too,” says Ghost Di a mite patronisingly. Elsewhere, Ghost Dodi (Khalid Abdalla) appears to his father, Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Daw). These scenes end with shots of empty seats to signal that the spectral communions are imagined, as well as intrusive and tacky… So, The Crown: business as usual then?
While you sense the cast trying to proceed with dignity, they’re powerless against the script’s ever-excitable reimaginings
This is heaps better than the much complained about series five bore-athon, which was also distasteful but forgot the fun of being a prestige royal soap (Dallas with primogeniture). Most of series six focuses on Diana and Dodi’s mutual love bombing (superyachts, paparazzi, the trifling matter that he’s already engaged to someone else). There’s little of Bertie Carvel’s Tony Blair (Morgan covered all that in the 2006 film The Queen). The Queen and Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce) are portrayed as dusty old duffers who don’t grasp the changing times. The car crash is limited to a distant bang. It’s a shame this restraint didn’t extend to chopping the scene of Princes William and Henry trudging behind their mother’s coffin (basically, globally televised child abuse), but I suppose when you’ve greenlit maternal spooks, anything goes.
While you sense the cast trying to proceed with dignity, they’re powerless against the script’s ever-excitable reimaginings. Along the way, it feels somewhat overemphasised that Diana (very firmly) rejects Dodi’s marriage proposal and that his father regards Diana as the ultimate trophy. By contrast, Diana (first spied grooving along to Chumbawamba) is all relatable, beatific wisdom, verging on bland, with little sense of the rapacious emotional hunger that made the real woman so compelling.
Much as I love Ghost Diana (I hope that she returns to advise William about Kate Middleton), with six more episodes of this sweet madness to go, you have to wonder if The Crown still deludes itself that it’s telling this story respectfully.
On Disney+, Emma Corrin (who played the younger Diana in The Crown) stars in A Murder at the End of the World, an off-kilter, seven-part US thriller from Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (the duo behind sci-fi drama The OA).
Corrin plays Darby, a pink-haired, hoodie-wearing hacker-cum-amateur detective (described as “the gen Z Sherlock Holmes”) who has written a book about pursuing a serial killer. Darby is invited to a snowy Icelandic retreat to join a group discussing the planet’s eco future, hosted by tech billionaire Andy Ronson (Clive Owen doing “inscrutable” in designer daywear) and his hacker wife (Marling). At the retreat, a guest dies.
Don’t envisage a tech-savvy And Then There Were None. This is an ambitious, conceptual, convoluted (at times ponderingly serious) mystery, with myriad themes (AI, eco disaster, abuse and more), plus extensive flashbacks to Darby and her then-lover, Bill (Harris Dickinson), pursuing the serial killer and falling in love.
Beware: it’s grindingly slow, uneven (most of the retreat group members are barely pencilled in), and the overall atmosphere is so oppressive that you find yourself hoping for another brutal murder to lift the mood. For all that, I felt compelled to watch to the end: it’s beautifully acted (Owen is downright unnerving), and the story, while conducted at a maddening pace, is atmospheric and deeply intriguing.
I’m not sure what I expected from the four-part travel series Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure (Channel 4), but the opener has charm to burn. The comedian visits lesser-known Western Australia (we’re told it has the same population as Greater Manchester, while being 2,000 times bigger), and encounters everything from a full-size replica of Stonehenge to a “valley of the giants” treetop walk to a museum in Albany devoted to the historical whaling industry, complete with photographs of small children watching whales get hacked to pieces. “Worst school trip ever,” says Bailey.
Elsewhere, he buys an accordion, swims with local legend Luc Longley (formerly of the Chicago Bulls basketball team) and exuberantly sings along with the Albany Shantymen (whose songs went viral during lockdown), exclaiming: “I feel I am among my people!” In the street, a woman interrupts filming to demand a hug from Bailey.
The result feels immersive, unpretentious and entirely random: as though Bailey’s car broke down and he was forced to stay in the area but ended up having a hoot. Too many travelogues are like smug, samey holiday snaps (“Here’s the lifestyle you could have won”). Bailey’s “adventure” makes Western Australia, and its people, come alive in full glorious eccentricity.
The Curse (Paramount+) is a new 10-part comedy created by Nathan Fielder (The Rehearsal) and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems). Emma Stone (yup, that Emma Stone) and Fielder play young couple Whitney and Asher, attempting to furnish Española, New Mexico, with eco homes, despite unimpressed and hostile locals. They’re being filmed for a docuseries by an odious producer (Safdie) when a child places a “tiny curse” on Asher.
Halfway through, The Curse is registering as a drawn-out, white saviour-themed Curb Your Enthusiasm tossed into a bottomless ethical abyss. I’m deeply irritated by the lead characters, but also mildly obsessed. It’s like watching privileged, self-serving humanity at its pathetic worst through dirty glass. If you like your humour dust-dry and left-field, give this a shot.
Star ratings (out of five) The Crown
Star ratings (out of five)
A Murder at the End of the World ★★★
Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure ★★★★
The Curse ★★★★
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The Lazarus Project(Sky Showcase/Max)
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Banged Up(Channel 4)
The short gritty reality series locks up celebrity civilians (from actor Sid Owen to journalist Peter Hitchens) with real prisoners. It’s genuinely hardcore, shocking and throbbing with violence.2023-11-19T09:36:01Z dg43tfdfdgfd