Monday, 11 August 2014

Review: ALMOST ROYAL - sub-BORAT japes in the United States, what?

Monday, 11 August 2014

E4 have begun airing BBC America's faux-reality documentary ALMOST ROYAL, which follows fake British aristocrats Georgie (Ed Gamble) and Poppy Carlton (Amy Hoggart) on tour around the United States. They're stereotypically dim and over-privileged gentry, so the hope is that hilarity will ensue when they rub shoulders with common Americans—who, um, actually seem to politely tolerate the Carlton's stupidity (because of their accents?), or just assume their weirdness is down to cultural dissonance.

Sacha Baron Cohen had similar success with his own characters in the U.S—particularly Borat (western attitudes to foreigners) and Brüno (modern attitudes to homosexuals)—but Almost Royal isn't close to as insightful or funny. That's no big surprise, as neither Gamble or Hoggart are comedians on Cohen's level, and the show doesn't have the same quality of writing.

This show isn't a travesty, thankfully, because I'm glad Georgie and Poppy aren't excruciating caricatures of "posh" Brits, and there's the occasional line to smile over... but it's all rather tame and pointless. It just confirms that Americans are largely good-humoured when interacting with silly Limeys, and it would actually be out-of-character if Georgie or Poppy did anything ghastly to provoke bigger reactions.

Cohen wisely created very extroverted characters, who could rub people up the wrong way, but Almost Royal's twosome are hamstrung by their own constructed personalities. The joke's actually on them most of the time, as they're totally clueless and well-mannered, but is that a funny joke considering the Carlton's are fake? Ali G, Borat, and Brüno also had funny personalities, but it's the reactions they provoked in others that really made audiences laugh. The best response Georgie and Poppy elicit are raised eyebrows and exasperated chuckles.

It's perhaps unfair to compare Almost Royal to Sacha Baron Cohen's work, but nevertheless it feels valid because this show has clearly been inspired by him. It just comes off as a very poor relation, but reasonably entertaining if you're in the right mood. However, nothing about the Carlton's, or the quality of the situations they found themselves in, made a deep enough impression on me.

Marc Wootton's La La Land from 2010 was actually a lot better.

Sundays, E4