Owen the Butler and Prince George (voiced by Alan Cumming and Gary Janetti)
Owen the Butler and Prince George (voiced by Alan Cumming and Gary Janetti) (Image: courtesy of HBO Max)

I can’t imagine that interest in the British royal family is at an all-time peak, but it’s pretty high these days. Chalk it up to a combination of the popularity of the historical-ish drama on The Crown and the real-life-ish drama surrounding Harry and Meghan’s great escape. Between the two, we’ve got the high-brow drama and the tabloid soap opera. Meanwhile, the Brits have their own slapstick royal parody in the form of Channel 4’s sitcom The Windsors, all three seasons of which are currently streaming on Netflix.

Add to this glut of royals content HBO Max’s The Prince, a new animated satire that was divisive before it ever aired. The show is based on creator Gary Janetti’s popular Instagram account on which, for the past few years, he has parodied young Prince George as a pint-sized toxic gay diva. As in those posts, the wee prince is the focus here, spending his days making condescending remarks about his dysfunctional family and making life impossible for the palace staff. Voiced by Janetti, a former writer on Family Guy, this version of the George is reminiscent that show’s toddler terrorist Stewie—though more obsessed with status and protocol than world domination.

 

Janetti has rounded out his cast with some impressive voices: Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashād as Harry and Meghan, both flailing slightly in L.A.; Sophie Turner as Princess Charlotte, who always seems to be plotting something devious; Iwan Rheon and Lucy Punch William and Kate, who can barely conceal their contempt for each other; Alan Cumming as George’s cheerfully self-debasing manservant. But it’s Dan Stevens as the simpering Prince Charles and the imperious Frances de la Tour as the foul-mouthed Queen Elizabeth who get the biggest laughs. Some of this has to do with the animation, which mercilessly caricatures the Windsors, and has some of the jerky movement of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python interstitials.

Of course, your tolerance for The Prince will depend on whether you think satirizing a seven-year-old is beyond the pale. Like Janetti’s Instagram posts, the show has already come in for criticism. Each episode opens with a disclaimer, and HBO Max rather unceremoniously dumped the full season in the wee hours of Thursday morning, as if they wanted to get it over with with as little fuss as possible.

The Prince clearly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m certainly not qualified to say how big a segment of Royal Watchers are also Family Guy fans—though I’d hazard to guess it’s a fairly sizable contingent among actual Brits. But if you are in that rarefied group, go on. Enjoy a naughty little hoot!

thoughts?