The Prince is Hollywood’s insult to the Royal family – disgusting, puerile and cheap

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The new HBO 'comedy' The Prince takes aim at the Royal family - HBO
The new HBO 'comedy' The Prince takes aim at the Royal family - HBO

It’s hard to know which of HBO’s choices in their new animated sitcom, The Prince, is more offensive. Is it the depiction of the Royal family as sweary weirdos and the late Prince Philip as a walking cadaver (“get the defibrillator paddles ready”)? Or its desperate attempts at “satire”, which so breathtakingly miss their mark?

For example: the Queen says “f---” a lot, and carries a pistol. Charles treats Camilla like a horse. Kate hates William. Such are the cutting-edge zingers flowing from the pen of Family Guy writer Gary Janetti, who has “adapted” The Prince from his popular Instagram account, in which he has great sport painting Prince George as a “sassy” influencer who delights in “spilling tea” – i.e. sharing invented “gossip” – about the Royals.

On screen, George is portrayed as a spoiled, wilful twerp with a quasi-American accent and a fascination with US talk-show host Kelly Ripa. (He is blatantly “inspired” by Family Guy’s megalomaniacal infant, Stewie Griffin.) Looking at the rest of the cast-list, one of the strangest aspects of this sitcom – besides the fact that it exists – is that it’s stacked with Hollywood talent. Prince George himself may be voiced by the obscure Janetti, but otherwise HBO has assembled a queen’s ransom of A-listers. Orlando Bloom plays Prince Harry; Dan Stevens is both Prince Charles and Prince Philip; Sophie Turner portrays Princess Charlotte as a mouthy bruiser.

The moral dubiousness of caricaturing Prince George, who is eight years old, hardly needs pointing out. But given that it has gone to the trouble, The Prince could at least have been funny. It isn’t, as becomes clear in an early scene in which the Royal family are having breakfast. “You look amazing today, gang-pa,” George tells Philip. “This is a sexy family – for British people.” Have your sides split yet?

The Prince, which HBO quietly dumped at midnight on its HBO Max service, had been postponed from a spring release following the death of Prince Philip. Alas, the producers didn’t take the opportunity to tone down the egregious nastiness. In episode two, Prince William attempts to open his grandfather’s mouth, which is clamped shut, so that he can pour in some tea. Philip, corpse-hued and incoherent, sits there grunting.

The Royal family are, of course, not above having a little fun poked at them. But HBO must be familiar with the concept of “too soon”. Even famous people deserve time and space to grieve. How difficult would it have been to cut the Philip material?

Elsewhere, the “satire” reveals nothing about the Windsors. Recurring gags include the idea that the Queen (Frances de la Tour) has a favourite pie, and that these are made in a dungeon beneath Buckingham Palace by gibbering troglodytes. Meanwhile, one of the servants is desperate for a poo. George’s butler – voiced by Alan Cumming – secretly hates his boss.

It becomes quickly apparent that nobody involved has even a superficial understanding of the Royal family. The impression is of a group of filmmakers who watched Downton Abbey once or twice, and have The Crown on their “must see” list, but never got around to doing more research than following Meghan Markle, as she once was, on Instagram.

The Duchess of Sussex, as it happens, is the only character in The Prince who isn’t viciously parodied. We meet her and Harry in LA: he is confounded by the concept of fridges and apartments; she quietly tries to stop him from making an idiot of himself.

Janetti has defended The Prince as humour born of generosity. “It’s never meant to be anything other than to give a laugh and be silly and funny,” he said. “It’s never meant to be anything that’s mean. It’s all about George’s insane take on the world and his wanting to be a star.” It’s hard to square such claims with the end product.

The good news, however, is that it is unthinkable any broadcaster this side of the Atlantic would in its right mind air The Prince. Not because it’s too irreverent (however horrible the Prince Philip material is). But simply because it’s so flailingly, noxiously, desperately unfunny.

The Prince is on HBO Max now

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