Queen of Oz
Catherine Tate has a rollicking time as an abrasive bad behaviour princess oddly sent to become a monarch down under.
I’m imagining that the pitch meeting for Queen of Oz was knocked over in just about record time.
“Catherine Tate as a black sheep of the Royal Family sent to Australia for rehabilitation,” or thereabouts. It practically writes itself.
From her previous sketch comedy show, Tate is born to play an anarchic, irreverent delinquent. So the idea of a party princess when Republicanism is being debated is really a no-brainer (despite the fact the concept is of Canadian origins).
Tate plays the very privileged Princess Georgiana, who slums her way through dull events such as officiating school anniversaries, whilst still recovering from her latest late night bender. But the latest embarrassing incident, splashed across Fleet Street front pages, is the straw that breaks her parents’ backs.
The Palace Private Secretary (Nicholas Bell) is given the task of passing on the bad news. HRH is to be shipped off to Australia to inject a bit of distance from the Palace and grow up.
The plan is also for her to quell a ground swell for a Republic, with the current Queen abdicating her jurisdiction over Australia, and for Georgiana to become Queen of Oz. Huh?
Aussie Prime Minister Rebecca Stewart (Rachel Gordon), who echoes a local Jacinda Ardern a lot more than a Julia Gillard clone, will also be on hand to assist in this rather bizarre mission.
But putting logic to one side, there is plenty of mirth in the fish-out-of-water scenes as Georgiana heads south to her new quarters at Macquarie House. Expect plenty of gags around timezones, weather and the Hemsworths as her lady-in-waiting Anabel (Niky Wardley), private secretary Bernard (Robert Coleby) and personal assistant Matthew (William McKenna) land with a thud down under.
“It’s Australia or bust,” remarks Bernard “…show yourself to be an asset rather than a liability.”
Even as she meets her dashing Security Marc (Rob Collins) and Head of House Weiwei (Anthony Brandon Wong), Georgina has all the demeanour of one who would barely get out of bed for tea and scones. Even her down to earth Aussie Director of Communications Zoe (Jenna Owen) has to reset her expectations and casual airs to handle this new
The first challenge is a soiree hosted by the PM, meeting the local dignitaries and media moguls Richard Steele (David Roberts), whose newspapers are looking forward to the clickbait she will deliver. This comment on Royals needing media, and vice versa, is part of the fun the writers unleash under director Christiaan van Vuuren. Just wait until episode two when veteran Aussie Maggie Dence plays the mogul’s mother, not to be confused with any others of local fame…
When she isn’t watching Married at First Sight, Georgiana is a helluva force to be reckoned with and it takes her frazzled personal assistant, resolute private secretary and chilled security to damage control in her wake or pull her into line.
Yet two episodes in there’s no sign of that proving successful which, despite some jolly punchlines and physical comedy from the gifted Tate, risks leaving her abrasive personality as too unlikeable. Yes it’s effortless, yes the gags are funny, but without some vulnerability or sign of redemption sooner rather than later it’s grotesque fun at best.
Special mention to William McKenna in a comic performance, contrasting his dramatic recent turn in The Messenger, and you’ll spot Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Lewis Fitz-gerald and cameos from Emma Alberici, Jonesy & Amanda, Richard Wilkins and still to come Rodger Corser, Dave Hughes, Daniel Lapaine, Lynette Curran and Zoe Carides.
The notion of becoming Queen of Oz feels like a nifty title rather than a credible concept, and wasn’t necessary to justify in the plot itself (I would have bought it without said abdication), but thankfully Tate is in top form here. There’s plenty to enjoy from this right royal ensemble.
9:35pm Wednesday on ABC (binge all episodes on iview).