The fourth season of Netflix’s period drama series The Crown chronicling the life of Buckingham Palace since 1944, has racked up so many Emmy nominations — 24 — that it’s now placed among the brightest stars in the firmament of the television academy awards to take place in September in Los Angeles.
The series boasts a number of other actresses and actors as nominees for leading and supporting roles: Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama; Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama; Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher; Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama.
If anything, it would seem that The Crown overperformed this year.
But in the context of the ‘bigger picture,’ Netflix fell short: down by more than 30 from last year’s nominations and bested by HBO/HBO Max by one nomination: 130 to 129.
Television critics have dubbed the competition “the war of the streamers” now dominating the industry’s production panorama.
For Vanity Fair, “Netflix has gone from the disruptor to the establishment” as it faces other and newer streamers such as Disney+, which snared 71 nominations and has two of the top three performing shows with The Mandalorian tying The Crown for the most show nominations (24).
Then there is Amazon, which collected 18 nominations, and Hulu and its Handmaid’s Tale with 10 acting nominations out of a total of 21.
Not counting AppleTV+, HBO Max, Peacock and others that prompt reviewers to agree with Vanity Fair that “one thing’s for sure: The new players on the block are very quickly overtaking the relatively older streamers.”
The fifth season and another “war”
Meantime, the filming of the 10 new episodes of The Crown’s fifth season, which focuses on another “war,” — that between Charles and Diana in the early 1990s until the death of the princess on August 31, 1997 — has started at Ellstree Studios.
The series starts in 1947 and follows the life of Queen Elizabeth, with past seasons covering her young years, coronation and marriage to Prince Philip, who died in April.
The fourth season, released on the streaming service last November, was set during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as prime minister and included Prince Charles’s conflicted courtship of the late Princess Diana and their marriage, under family pressure.
The fifth season, scheduled for release in 2022, covers up to the 1990s and features a new prime minister, John Major, and the end of several royal marriages including those of Princess Anne and Mark Philips, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1992.
The series will return to the controversial and shocking interview granted by Diana in 1995 to the BBC’s Panorama, after she was lured to the show under false pretences made by journalist Martin Bashir.
In the interview, an unhappy Diana talks openly about her husband’s infidelity with Camilla Parker Bowles, today the Duchess of Cornwall, and about her conflicts with the British royal establishment.
Why stop at season six?
The main characters will be portrayed by a change in actors and actresses to correspond to the advancing age of the protagonists and to bring fresh faces to next Emmy awards, most notably Imelda Staunton who will take over the role of the queen from Colman.
The final set of actors will close the series finale and feature the dynasty’s upturn after Lady Diana’s demise up to the Golden Jubilee triumph of 2002.
Why stop now while everything is going so well, Marc Roche, Le Point’s royal correspondent, asks rhetorically?
He agrees with Director Peter Morgan, who has explained that tackling more recent themes is too risky.
“Indeed, the huge media coverage and the advent of social media can only weaken the work of fiction,” he writes. “The most recent royal events do not lend themselves to a reenactment with the same daring as demonstrated in previous seasons.”
Among the arguments, he points out how the young British royals are more susceptible to criticism than their elders and how some have “abandoned the traditional law firm of Windsor, Farrer & Co in favor of Schillings, specializing in cases of journalistic defamation. Known for their aggressiveness and their refusal to compromise, its lawyers have won most of the lawsuits brought by their clients, mostly show business stars.”
The real Crown’s disapproval
The British press has been profuse with stories about the disapproval by members of the royal family of the characterization of its members in the series — and of the avalanche of Emmy nominations.
“After the U.S. platform refused to say that The Crown was fictional as requested by Culture Minister Oliver Dowden, the government took revenge,” Roche writes. “A bill in preparation aims to bring streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon under the control of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which regulates traditional channels, including the BBC.”
It should be noted that the interview granted a few months ago by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS PrimeTime Special” is shortlisted for Best Non-Fiction Series or Special with a Host.
The show, in which the couple accuse the Windsors of racism and Buckingham Palace of neglect, was viewed by 17 million Americans, and 11.3 million Britons.
The 73rd edition of the Emmys ceremony will be held on September 20 in Los Angeles.