The Windsors (Channel 4, Fridays, 10pm) has a natural advantage over its comedy rivals. Most sitcoms take a series or two to establish character. At the centre of The Windsors, however, is a family we’ve been laughing at for years. With a few pantomime exaggerations.
Prince Charles, the show speculates, is a simpleton who finds cutting ribbons a challenge. His wife is a gin-sodden psychopath. Fergie is banned from coming within a hundred miles of the palace, her movements monitored on an electronic tag put there by Prince Philip. Kate is the daughter of tinkers. Wills yearns to live as a commoner in a semi. When he and his wife are briefly deprived of a chauffeur, they drive themselves to a party and sit awkwardly in the car for a few seconds. Then Wills says: “Oh yeah, I keep forgetting that we have to open the doors ourselves.”
The show is sprinkled with wonderful one-liners. Harry marries the daughter of the Australian PM in order to save the Commonwealth (which the Royals are charmingly convinced is “the most important organisation in the world”), and they hire a Little Mix tribute act – “although it is more expensive than the real thing”.
Beatrice and Eugenie are determined to get Prince Andrew and Fergie back together, “So we can be a proper family again – like we were in January and February 1994.”
Devout monarchists will be offended, but only a handful of those exist. What republicans don’t understand is that 99 per cent of monarchists are realists rather than devotees. We don’t expect brilliance from the nation’s chief executives, just a sense of duty and a willingness to leave us alone. There are too many politicians in our democracy, too many smart alecs who think they can transform our lives with a white paper. It isn’t alarming to imagine that the Royals are so stupid they think “manual labour” is a Mexican name – it’s reassuring.
British satire is hit-and-miss. The left-wing school of comedy that still dominates the BBC panel shows continues to confuse comedy with Marxist analysis. The Windsors has no such pretensions and so hits the target. It’s bracingly vulgar – just like the average aristo.