It was always going to be hard to top jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond, as Her Majesty “did” during the London 2012 opening ceremony. But whoever had the brainwave to open the Party at the Palace (BBC One) with the Queen taking tea – and marmalade sandwiches – with Paddington Bear surely deserves a mention on the next honour’s list.
She could not be there on the night, but this little flourish – tapping her teacup in time to Queen’s We Will Rock You with the little Peruvian bear – was a simple but winning gesture. The British love a sense of humour. And the Queen has one.
All credit to BBC Studios for pulling off an evening that felt somewhere between Sunday night at Glastonbury and the Last Night of the Proms.
The 360-degree stage allowed seamless transitions between the musical acts, which was something of a mercy for us television viewers, given the occasionally excruciating 30 minutes that we were treated to before Brian May and his guitar got the admirable, if scattergun, pop concert underway.
Kirsty Young was the safest of safe part of hands given the job of presenting the festivities, from a pagoda in St James’s Park, where – further Glastonbury comparisons – she gamely quizzed some singers about how they were feeling. Britain’s Eurovision shining knight, Sam Ryder, appeared to talk about himself (Sam, it’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee), alongside Mica Paris, who talked about Sam Ryder (Mica, it’s… oh forget it).
“I can almost touch the nerves,” said Young, which can’t have helped anyone’s nerves. The journalist in Young must have been aching to hear more from Paris about her parents, who came over during the Windrush and were fervent royalists. There was no time for that, however.
No, we had to head “backstage” to hear from radio DJ Roman Kemp and Richie Anderson (who, I am reliably assured, does the travel on Radio 2) who were buttonholing some of the acts in a bid to make us all feel like we weren’t just watching a televised concert. Kemp and Anderson are both nice chaps, I’m sure, but hearing celebrities being asked "what this meant to them" over and over again, as if they’d just won the FA Cup, soon grew old. I would far rather they had asked Queen singer Adam Lambert (pictured below) why he was dressed like an expensive Turkish sofa. But they didn’t.
When we cut back to Young it was a relief, as if an adult had entered the room again. I could have handled 30 minutes of Young’s musings and interviews, but, no, we TV viewers needed added extras, so we were treated to some occasionally ropey home-recorded tributes to the Queen from various celebs, most of which gave unwelcome flashbacks to the many Zoom calls of the pandemic.
Some of the backgrounds amounted to treason – Barry Gibb looked like he was in a magician’s cupboard. Jools Holland stood in front of a thermostat.
I also enjoyed the opening montage of the Queen meeting various entertainment heavyweights from down the decades, in which Craig David and Lulu were presented as on a par with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.
That, however, was a distant memory when the camera cut to the thousands packed onto The Mall. The concert was event TV, pulled off with some style and only a few irritations.