The BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall recently warned that the traditional UK broadcasters are going to find life increasingly difficult to compete with the new streaming boys on the block like Netflix and Amazon, because they have big bags of money at their disposal. Lord Hall is right, especially if you check out the sheer brilliance of The Crown, with Netflix releasing series two last weekend.
The Crown has the biggest-ever budget for a UK-produced drama at ten million pounds per episode, and the staging, designs, and locations are big and movie-like, matched by Peter Morgan’s wonderful script.
As a big Crown fan, I’ve watched the first four episodes already and we’re in the mid to late fifties, with the Suez crisis; two Prime Ministers; a divorce scandal involving Prince Philip’s closest aid and friend; the rocky relationship between Philip and Elizabeth; and Princess Margaret at last meeting the man of her dreams, after calling off her engagement to a right old drunken twit.
The Crown (nominated again for the Golden Globes next month) just reels you in with a mix of love, royalty, and politics woven perfectly by Peter Morgan, and Claire Foy (Elizabeth) and Matt Smith (Philip) leading a great cast that delivers from top to bottom. If you don’t watch The Crown, then you are missing out.
I would also use that categorisation for the best comedy/drama of the year, which finally comes to BBC 2 this Saturday evening in the shape of Feud: Bette and Joan. I saw the series during the summer, and I guarantee that you will love this highly entertaining tale of bitter rivalry between Hollywood greats Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as they come together to make the movie, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Like with The Crown, we have some great casting, with Susan Sarandon as Davis, and Jessica Lange as Crawford knocking nine bells out of each other in a show that has you rolling in the aisles, especially if you love anything to do with the old days of Hollywood. It’s a feast of bitching and back-stabbing with plenty of great comedy moments put together by show creator Ryan Murphy. There are top turns from the likes of Alfred Molina as film director Robert Aldrich, and Stanley Tucci as movie mogul Jack Warner, plus cameos from Kathy Bates and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Look out though for show-stealing scenes from Jackie Hoffman as Crawford’s assistant and dogsbody, Mamacita.
Everything is right about Feud, from some clever opening credits; the designs and music; and a fantastic recreation of an Oscar ceremony. Be ready though for a final episode that kicks you hard with a very different tone, but this a triumph for all concerned led by one of America’s most creative TV show makers in Ryan Murphy. His latest American Crime Story series about the murder of Gianni Versace pops up in the New Year (BBC 2 has the UK rights) and then he’ll be doing a second series of Feud, this time going onto Crown territory featuring the story of Charles and Diana! Good luck to him on that, but Feud like The Crown is essential viewing for anybody wants television straight out of the top drawer.