BBC America first gained popularity by offering Americans a glimpse into the magical world of British television. Shows like Doctor Who and Top Gear found new life on this side of the pond, and their well-done drama Orphan Black seemed to indicate that the channel was heading in the right direction with its original programming. The premiere of Almost Royal was its first foray into original comedy and, two episodes in, I'm afraid the serious stuff may be the station's strong suit.
The show follows Georgie and Poppy Carlton, a brother and sister who are very, very distant heirs to the royal throne (83rd and 84th, respectively), as they tour America for the first time. Each episode focuses on their stops in different American cities as they try to assimilate themselves into the culture. In the vein of Da Ali G Show, the two main characters are actors, but they interact with everyday Americans, pushing the boundaries of the ridiculous, and ending up in the realm of extreme discomfort. The difference is that on Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen was using overt buffoonery to some end, to make a point—Georgie and Poppy are just cringeworthy.
On their first stop in Boston, a Revolutionary War historian attempts to teach the pair about Paul Revere; when they show more interest in a statue of Revere's horse than the lesson at hand, you can tell the guy is anxious to get rid. And I can't say I blamed him. Georgie and Poppy's incessant deadpan inquiries about the horse, which eventually culminate in the the conclusion that they learned nothing, were already too much to bear in the show's first seven minutes. The 13 minutes that followed didn't do much to redeem them, nor did a trip to Los Angeles in episode two. A bit during a bicycle tour of celebrity hotspots fell flat when they kept referring to themselves as "friends with benefits." The tour guide, who was quick to point out that they are brother and sister and shouldn't use the phrase to describe their relationship, was soon driven to genuine anger when they wouldn't let it go. There was nothing insightful, funny, or particularly original about this bit, much the same as the rest of the show.
The few moments that did make me laugh aloud were between just Poppy and Georgie while they drove around each city. The two riff off each other's characters well, so it's a shame that this show didn't cash in on this interaction more. It would have benefited from going full mockumentary and pulling more characters into the mix instead of duping innocent civilians into becoming the punchlines of jokes that aren't that funny to begin with.
It's admirable for BBC America to take this next step in programming, but for now we'll just count on reruns of Absolutely Fabulous for the laughs.
Almost Royal, BBC America, Saturdays at 9 PM