The Crown: how a TV hit lost its shine

Critics of the new season have called it 'crass', 'pointless' and a 'new low'

Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in 'The Crown'
Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in 'The Crown'
(Image credit: Netflix)

Once, it was regarded as a stately piece of "prestige" TV, said Michael Hogan in The Guardian. Seven years on, Peter Morgan's "The Crown" is a "trashy", unwittingly comical melodrama that borders on exploitative. Critics of the new season, which covers the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, have called it "crass", "pointless", and a "new low". Let's just say the reviews have been "mixed". So what went wrong? One problem is that when the show started in 2016, few viewers knew a great deal about the postwar events being dramatised, or had strong views about them, and many of the people involved were dead. "The Crown" was part lavishly produced soap opera, "part history lesson". But with each season since then, it has got closer to the present day – and that has caused mounting controversy. 

Unfortunately, this has coincided with a steady decline in the drama's quality. It has got a bit desperate, agreed Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. In this final season, "The Crown" completes its "demolition job" of the late Queen, who has moved from intelligent young woman (Claire Foy) to unfeeling "old boot" (Imelda Staunton). As for Diana, she has become so integral, Morgan can't let her go: after the crash in Paris (which we do not see), she appears in ghostly form to Prince Charles – "Ta-da" – to praise him for crying over her body. "Thank you for how you were in the hospital," says Dead Diana. "So raw. Broken. And handsome. I'll take that with me." What an odd thing to write. Yet it's typical of the dialogue, said Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, much of which is "the very definition of typing-not-writing". 

There is stuff to enjoy in the series, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. Elizabeth Debicki perfectly captures Diana, though Morgan has so sanctified the princess that she is a bit dull ("landmine survivors are frequently rejected by their communities"); and Salim Daw makes an amusingly villainous Mohamed Al Fayed (he is dead, so he can't sue). But the public events are so familiar, the plot has to be driven by private ones (including conversations between Diana and Dodi) that are highly speculative, said Nick Hilton in The Independent. "The Crown" now feels less historical drama than "tittle-tattle". 

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