[This is a review of Almost Royal season 1, episodes 1 & 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
In Almost Royal, BBC America’s first stab at original comedy, distant British royal throne heirs Georgie and Poppy Carlton (Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart) venture to the United States of America on a mission of discovery in honor of their departed father, who accidentally shot himself in the face while hunting after his bullet ricocheted off of a gun safety sign.
And though that may seem like a somewhat dark start for a comedy, those notions are undercut by the dry humor throughout and Georgie’s summary of the tragedy, “It really was a terrible waste. Of a life… and a sign.”
Less a show about making both the audience and the unsuspecting hoi polloi of America uncomfortable as it is a show about two pretend aristocrats and their campaign to be unintentionally annoying, Georgie and Poppy play oblivious to the world around them. Acting like clowns in tonight’s double-episode debut, the two only gently mock the people that they come in contact with while often training their sights on their own snobbish behavior.
For example, as Georgie and Poppy visit romance novel cover boy Fabio at a grocery store where he is selling protein products, the two mostly avoid the easy jokes, instead fixating on Fabio’s fitness as a mate for their mother.
This inward gaze is demonstrated again as the two meet with Kim Matula on the set of The Bold and the Beautiful and with a plastic surgeon. Here, both Poppy’s dreadful acting ability, vanity and snapped tether to reality come to the fore while only jabs are thrown at the people that they encounter, save for a somewhat harsh swipe about the Doctor when he is out of sight.
In the second episode, which mostly takes place in Boston, the humor chiefly are about the supposed misunderstandings that come from the cultural differences between Georgie and Poppy’s upper crust British upbringing and those of typical Americans. Paul Revere’s actions are questioned and he is labeled a snitch, a Tea Party meeting is a disappointment in that the attendees only talk about politics and serve no tea and Georgie approaches a baseball game as if it were a cricket match.
This all comes together to present a product that feels like a take on Sacha Baron-Cohen’s antics in Borat and Da Ali G Show. But whereas Cohen’s work seemed harshly satirical and occasionally mean-spirited, this aims to be more broad, message-less, fun and easy.
Whether that makes Almost Royal an improvement on the format or a lesser offshoot is a matter of opinion - I'm not yet sure, personally - but it almost certainly makes Almost Royal seem more inoffensive.
Almost Royal airs Saturday nights @10pm on BBC America.