Share this article

print logo


Jeff Simon: Just DVR the Royal wedding and catch up later

Jeff Simon

I was 8 years old at the time -- the same age as my grandson now. Elizabeth was 25. (She wasn't queen yet.)

The date was June 2, 1953, the official date of her coronation, which took place at 10 a.m., or 5 a.m. Buffalo time. That's when my mother woke me up to watch.

I was told it was a historic event and that years later I'd thank her for it. I somehow neglected to thank her for it at the time. Nor am I inclined to thank her memory now. It turned out back then that broadcasting across the pond wasn't by any means simple, so it took a couple hours to be shown here.

She certainly meant well, but I can't honestly say whether it was the most boring thing I ever saw or just the first boring thing I ever saw on television. It may be both.

Television was so new back then that everything tended to seem exciting -- even test patterns. The coronation of Queen E on the other hand? Not so much.

The picture reception was godawful. The honchos across the pond had decided before there'd be no closeups. So there were a lot of shots of parading horses and a lot of sounds of droning voices in an echoing cathedral. That's what my memory is telling me now, anyway.

We are, to put it mildly, a lot smarter about things on television in our new millennium. You can bet your throne that on Saturday all the visuals will be as gaudy as possible, Diana and Kate-style, for the broadcast of the wedding of Bonnie Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Announcers will try to mumble interestingly if forced to.

St. George's Chapel, where it will all happen, isn't exactly cathedral sized. The Brits jolly well know they have to pretend to make the public part of it all, but they also know they can't go full gooze bozo tabloid the way the world's media will, when given half a chance.

If no one minds, I'm going to advise Royal fans to DVR this bash Saturday and let all 8-year olds sleep in.

I'm trusting network and cable explotationists to collect the highlights, such as they are, and catch up later.

My major problem is that I'm no Anglophile now and never have been. I'm certainly no Anglophobe, either. I don't hold 1812 against them. I like the Brits -- their lunatic comedians and Bond movies, their classical and pop music (especially when derived from ours) and, of course, their literature. I like the comedy of their attempts to disguise the class system. (When Queen E was recently photographed giving Paul McCartney something called a "Companion of Honor" award, all I could hear in my head was Paul singing "Her majesty's a pretty nice girl/But she doesn't have a lot to say.")

On the other hand, I hate their class system television when it's full-throated. I've never made a habit of "Downton Abbey." Despite all the wonderful people I know who were dedicated to it, "Upstairs, Downstairs" years ago was my idea of TV hell -- all that below stairs gossip and servility and all that upstairs soap opera, snobbery and class privilege that would late require "Downton's" withering wit from Maggie Smith to make at all palatable. (To see Maggie's comic masterpiece on film, don't miss her and Michael Palin up to their knees in pig-droppings in "A Private Function" from 1986.)

Please don't misunderstand here. I'm very much in favor of Meghan and Harry -- not that I have a vote, mind you. Long may they wave. You've got to admire a prince who, of all the world's women, picked a biracial, 36-year old divorced American cable-TV star to share a late-night toddy or two. That's a man and a woman who think for themselves.

I understand that Harry and Meghan aren't getting all that much press love either in England or on the continent, but then any future Royal couple who can be so sniffishly picky about which American pols are on their guest list gets my vote. It's too bad, of course, that her father has run into the sticky wicket of the British tabloid press that has been having a fine old time with his posing for supposedly "candid" photos of learning Royal folk ways. But whatever the television event turns out to be, the romance, at the moment, seems rather sweet.

Any adult who insists on conspicuous Anglophilia on Saturday should know about a British limited series that began last Saturday and contains what I thought was the most spectacular premium cable performance in months on its opening episode -- Showtime's "Patrick Melrose," starring Benedict Cumberbatch, better known for "Sherlock" and "Dr. Strange." It's feel for Britannia is the exact opposite of Harry and Meghan.

Serious British actors on stage and in film are suckers for playing drug-addled, booze-soaked wreckages spraying withering and toxic blasts of contempt into the air whenever their manic-depression permits. That's because all of their consummately trained actors love to curl their tongues around all that meanness and linguistic fire and self-pity. Cumberbatch in that opening episode is spectacular -- absolutely not to be missed (by adults, of course; leave the kids as far away from the screen as possible while he's in the middle of virtuoso pyrotechnics). If he doesn't get an Emmy or some sort for that alone, he was robbed.

The show is based on an acclaimed series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn that is mostly contemptuous of the whole class of people who will be sitting in the pews watching Harry and Meghan hook up permanently for Windsor family purposes. Heck of a show so far -- worth it, for sure, to find Showtime's On Demand or Extra Channels.

For those who like to get their news about premium cable television closer to home in what is being called "Peak TV" (that is, the current era, where there's too much good stuff to keep up with), consider what happened last Sunday on Showtime's "Billions," which presents the brutal American version of the pyrotechnic contempt so juicy on "Patrick Melrose."

U. S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giammatti) and hedge fund mogul Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) have now found common cause to screw all of us little people again, with the result that Chuck Rhoades Jr. is now -- get this -- boosting New York gubernatorial fortunes of a Buffalo mayor nicknamed "Buffalo Bob" Sweeney that his father Chuck Sr. (Jeffrey DeMunn) was pushing him to run for.

We've always had a stake in "Billions" on this shore of Lake Erie. DeMunn -- a younger schoolmate of mine at Nichols whom I didn't know years ago -- is from  a royal family of Buffalo actors, namely father Jim DeMunn and stepmother Betty Lutes DeMunn.

In a TV fantasy of money and corruption where bile and malice flow as freely as they do in "Billions," he's got the acting chops to feel right at home.

But then so would Benedict Cumberbatch.

There are no comments - be the first to comment