As trash TV, "The Royals" musters only a passing grade, barely.
Premieres March 15 at 10 p.m. on E!
WHAT IT'S ABOUT E's first scripted series takes on the House of Windsor, with a (duh! fictional) Prince Liam (William Moseley) who is in line to become king of England after the tragic death of his brother, Robert, in a military-related accident. But King Simon (Vincent Regan, "300") -- who is fed up with his reprobate family, including lascivious Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) and naughty ill-behaved Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) -- decides to abolish the monarchy instead. Will his plan allow Liam to live a normal life, with new girlfriend Ophelia (Merritt Patterson)? What will the Grand Duchess of Oxford (Joan Collins) have to say about this harebrained scheme? This series was created by Mark Schwahn ("One Tree Hill").
MY SAY Needless to say, "The Royals" is trash TV, so it seems to me that what connoisseurs of trash TV really want to know is whether "The Royals" is trashy enough.
The requisite ingredients for good trash are all present and accounted for: Sex, blackmail, porn, drugs, palace intrigue, possible murder, and the usual assortment of randy uncles, footmen, ex-girlfriends and bad-boy toys and good-boy toys. All this, plus Collins, empress supreme of good TV trash, who makes her entrance a few episodes in.
The dialogue is suitably overbaked as well. Queen: "What's wrong with you?" King: "Well, for starters, my son just died and we're throwing a garden party."
But I still suspect "The Royals' " heart isn't entirely in this. The giveaway is Regan, who is too good an actor for the scripted equivalent of "The Real Housewives of Buckingham Palace." He probably knows it, too. He tries to inflect his character with distant echoes of one of Shakespeare's beset monarchs when Hurley's Queen Helena suddenly materializes, blasting his noble thespian intentions to smithereens. It's the acting equivalent of getting a cream pie in the face.
"The Royals" is similarly restrained in other places. Liam is just a bit too nice, Ophelia a shade too wholesome. Hurley -- who looks fabulous -- is at her vampish best, but there's not enough of her, at least in the early episodes. The trash meter soars when she's on-screen, then sags when she's off. And there's just too much sag here.