Critics on both sides of the Atlantic found common ground in negative reviews of the first three episodes of the series.
These days in Britain, very little unites the right and left. “Harry & Meghan,” the intimate Netflix series released Thursday, is quickly shaping up to be the exception.
The first three episodes of the docuseries, directed by Liz Garbus and produced in conjunction with the production company of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, were quickly skewered by a bipartisan group of critics, from The Sun to The Guardian. Although “skewered” may not actually capture the harshness of some of the commentary.
Who are the world’s biggest victims right now? You might think it’s the poor people of Ukraine as they’re bombed, shot and raped by Putin’s invading barbarians. Or those whose lives have been ruined by the Covid pandemic that continues to cause widespread death and long-term illness. Or the millions battling crippling financial hardship in a devastating cost-of-living crisis that has swept the globe.
But no. The world’s biggest victims are in fact Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, a pair of incredibly rich, stupendously privileged, horribly entitled narcissists.
If you don’t believe me, just ask them!
Later in his review, Morgan cautions viewers they may need a “sick bucket.” He was not the only one to evoke gastrointestinal distress. The headline for Lucy Mangan’s review in the left-leaning Guardian, exclaims that the first three episodes were “so sickening I almost brought up my breakfast.”
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- ‘The Crown’: Months ago, the new season of the Netflix drama was shaping up as another public-relations headache for Prince Charles. But then he became king.
- Training Nannies: Where did the royals find Prince George’s nanny? At Norland College, where students learn how to shield strollers from paparazzi and fend off potential kidnappers.
Mangan does point out that the series so far has plenty of sweet moments — particularly of Prince Harry and Meghan “being charming and funny together” — but she ultimately finds the finished product wanting:
But in the end — what are we left with? Exactly the same story we always knew, told in the way we would expect to hear it from the people who are telling it. Those who don’t care won’t watch. Those who do care — which is to say are voyeuristically invested in the real-life soap opera — will still read into it anything they want to and doubtless confirm all their previous ideas. There is plenty here to start another round of tabloid frenzy, particularly in Harry’s mention of members of the royal family who consider the pressure placed on anyone “marrying in” a rite of passage and resist allowing anyone else to avoid what their own spouses went through, and who bow to internal pressure to choose a wife who “fits the mould.” Which is to say — it is hard to see who, beyond the media, the villains of the piece, will really gain from this?
The Independent, a more centrist player in British media, was less savage, but not exactly admiring, calling the series both “self-aggrandizing” and “wildly entertaining.” In her review, Jessie Thompson finds the couple, at times endearing and sympathetic, and the points about racism in Britain eloquently made.
But while she writes that she respects their “right to share this stuff on their own terms,” she finds the protestations of love over the top (“We believe you! You are in love! There’s no need to show us any more of your WhatsApps!”) and their inability to talk like normal people when interviewed frustrating.
She also wonders at moments in the series “if the couple are naïve or disingenuous”:
Did Meghan really think it was “a joke” that she had to curtsy to the Queen of England? It might be an outdated request, but it surely can’t have been an unexpected one. “Like, what’s a walkabout?” she says of her first public appearance. They also seem to have a weird pathological need to document every aspect of their lives.
The Financial Times, the more sober-minded and business-focused newspaper, finds the first three episodes of the much-hyped series something of a let down. As Henry Mance writes:
Does this “Netflix Global Event” match up to, say, Diana, Princess of Wales on “Panorama,” Prince Andrew on “Newsnight” or even Harry and Meghan’s own conversation with Oprah Winfrey, in which they alleged a member of the royal family speculated about their baby’s skin colour? Bluntly, no. There have been explosive royal TV shows, but so far this is not one of them. Harry and Meghan do not drop bombs; at most, they point plaintively at existing craters. They have also bought into the successful Netflix formula: never say in one hour what you can stretch out over several. This is a show that makes you grateful that the streaming platform has the option to watch at 1.25x speed.
In the United States, the reviews registered a similar sense of disappointment.
As Stephanie Bunbury writes for Deadline:
Three hours into Netflix doc series “Harry & Meghan” and still no tell-all truths from the darkest corners of the House of Windsor. Anyone who had expected the curtain to be lifted on the deep-state machinations of The Firm to protect the brand will be feeling shortchanged by Volume I which dropped today.
Daniel D’Addario echoes that sentiment for Variety, lamenting the series’ unwillingness to push past the familiar: “As with the most recent, painfully dull season of “The Crown,” there seems a sort of narrative stuckness, an inability or lack of desire to find the next thing to say that we haven’t yet heard.”
But he still holds out hope that the final episodes, which will be released on Dec. 15, will move beyond “the story of their courtship, wedding, and family feuds:”
What they want to do now that they’ve overcome adversity may well lie ahead in the next batch of episodes, but speaking in their own voice about issues other than their personal experience would have represented a good start. But perhaps that’s not the remit, on a show for which the pair are engaged with a major streaming corporation to dish the dirt once more. Pity them, too — even after breaking free of Buckingham Palace, they’re still someone’s subjects.