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You Should Be Watching: 'The Crown'

"The Crown" is a sumptuously filmed historical period drama that focuses on the United Kingdom’s royal family. It brings us inside the halls of palaces and prime ministers’ chambers and offers an absorbing study of the modern British monarchy.

Title: "The Crown"

Year it began: 2016

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Who’s in it: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, John Lithgow, Jared Harris, Eileen Atkins, Victoria Hamilton, Alex Jennings, Lia Williams, Jeremy Northam, Ben Miles, Michael C. Hall.

Typical episode length: 57 minutes

Number of episodes to date: Two seasons (20 episodes)

Brief plot description: The show follows the life of Elizabeth II, Queen of Britain. Beginning with Elizabeth’s 1947 marriage and her becoming Queen in 1952, "The Crown" dramatizes 1950s and 1960s world events from the perspective of the British royal family.

Why it’s worth watching: "The Crown" successfully generates both public and personal drama by giving us both an intimate look at royal lives and a portrait of post-World War II history through a British lens. The show makes excellent use of its big budget to display the privileged lives of British aristocrats and the popular monarchy they dominate. "The Crown" dwells on elitist luxury, showing sumptuous dinners in splendid halls filled with Western art masterpieces and violent aristocratic hunting trips in picturesque locales. Numerous extras depict adoring crowds seeking a glimpse of royalty as a royal entourage passes by, while lavish outdoor sets in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Australia convey Britain’s global sway.

"The Crown" features an excellent cast of actors, led by Foy’s engaging portrayal of Elizabeth as a thoughtful, cautious individual facing the constant pressure of balancing her roles as a symbolic ruler and a private individual. Smith helps anchor the show’s vision of colliding public and private worlds through his wonderful performance as the outgoing Philip, who sacrifices his career ambitions to play an emphatically second role to his sovereign wife. Harris provides an early, fabulous performance as a cerebral and soulful George VI who displays palpable affection for his daughters and his subjects. Other standout roles include Lithgow’s compelling combination of bombast and wisdom in his aged Winston Churchill; Kirby’s riveting performance as the passionate and sensitive Princess Margaret; Miles’s intense equerry, the Air Force Captain Peter Townsend; and Jennings’ insidiously petty, vindictive, and hypocritically polite ex-monarch, Edward Windsor.

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