‘The Prince’: A poor man’s ‘Family Guy’ on HBO Max07/31/2021
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I really wanted to like “The Prince” — but we already have “Family Guy,” so…
The new animated series on HBO Max comes from Gary Janetti, who has a long history with “Family Guy” as a writer/producer. He brings that skewed sensibility to “The Prince,” but not as cleverly, and since it’s streaming — and not on network television — he gives his caricatures (including Queen Elizabeth) free rein to spew profanity and drop F-bombs like nobody’s business. It’s supposed to be cutting-edge and daring but it’s unnecessary and unattractive and detracts from this lampooning of the Royal Family and its foibles.
Janetti adapted “The Prince” from his wildly popular Instagram memes starring the real Prince George, the oldest son of William and Kate and heir to the throne, as a shade-throwing sass machine.
Here, he’s an effete, witheringly sarcastic 8-year-old (played by Janetti) who sounds like Stewie, the snide talking baby from “Family Guy,” and shares many of his characteristics. Prince George is obsessed with social media (particularly with Kelly Ripa) and is waited on hand and foot by his butler, Owen (Alan Cumming), who applies his face cream and takes his snark with a stiff upper lip. All the Royals are here: hunched-over Queen Elizabeth (Frances de la Tour), who packs a gun and shoots one of her aides, calling him a “piece of s–t”; dimwitted man-child Charles (Dan Stevens) and silent Camilla (there’s a horse joke about her looks); toothy William (Iwah Rheon) and irritable Kate (Lucy Punch); and Harry (Orlando Bloom) and Meghan (Condola Rashad), living in LA in the downmarket Melrose Apartments, where Harry is amazed by a refrigerator. George’s younger sister and brother, Charlotte (Sophie Turner) and Louis, are also in the mix.
Unfortunately, so, too, is Prince Philip, who died in April at the age of 99. Given the long lead time for an animated series, he was alive during production on “The Prince,” and is a constant presence throughout, so it’s understandable. HBO Max announced in May that the series would be delayed out of respect for him, and for the Royal Family…but, still, he’s here, stooped, ashen, desiccated and barely conscious, his eyes shut and his mouth either hanging open or clamped shut. That long lead time rears its head again in a reference to Tim Allen’s Fox sitcom “Last Man Standing” (Meghan is auditioning for a role); it was cancelled in May. I guess that line couldn’t have been edited out or overdubbed.
There are some clever lines here. Harry: “‘Suits’ is more popular in the States than even ‘Friends,’ you told us.” Megan: “I oversold that one a little bit at the time.” Most of the topical references are, well, topical — “Demi Lovato is non-binary. Good for Them,” Prince George says while glued to his cellphone and shouts out “Free Britney!” But Queen Elizabeth calling someone “a tosser” just doesn’t hit the mark; it all feels a bit forced in that trying-to-be-outrageous sort of way.
Maybe it’s just too difficult to parody a family that’s already a caricature of itself. Sometimes truth is weirder than animated fiction.
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