An uninspiring re-tread that so far offers nothing new.
We review the Netflix documentary series Harry & Meghan season 1, which was released on December 8th, 2022.
It is interesting to see a major Royal, even one that is technically not a Royal anymore, go public in such a controversial manner. Princess Diana did it with the BBC, and if you were not around at the time, 1995, then you will have to Google how much of an event that was.
The interview saw Diana speak about her personal life, her mental health, and her marriage. It led to Diana becoming one of the most loved and controversial figures of the 20th century. This kind of TV was unimaginable at the time and has been scrutinized ever since it was first aired, and that is probably why segments of it have been included in the new Netflix docu-series Harry & Meghan.
The interview, conducted by Martin Bashir, was under the umbrella of the BBC’s Panorama show and was filmed in Diana’s living room in Kensington Palace. It is a somber and voyeuristic TV show, and Diana opened up about her depression, bulimia, and of course, Charles and Camilla. Shocking, controversial, visceral, and genuinely a landmark in broadcasting, the Diana interview was unmissable.
In 2021, Bashir would be investigated about the methods used to obtain the interview, making the event even more controversial than it already was. So now we have another candid and open Netflix documentary series featuring Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, that opens up the couple to an audience eager to hear the inside story of the Royal Family, don’t hold your breath.
Netflix’s Harry & Meghan season 1 (so far) review
Episode 1 pretty much covers the early days of the romance between Harry and Meghan. We hear straight from the horse’s mouth about the days of their early courtship.
From there we are treated to lots of footage of young Harry with his mum and dad at home. Harry talks fondly of his youth and explains he doesn’t have many early memories of his mum but says he remembers her laugh.
Of course, the paparazzi are mentioned, and there is plenty of footage of holidays abroad and the photographers stalking them. Interspersed with the footage are plenty of talking heads explaining the influence of the Royal Family and the role they play on the world’s stage.
These commentators help us to understand some of the mechanisms that are in place to keep the Royals in the public eye, and, more importantly with a high appreciation index.
There is some footage of Diana strongly urging the photographers to leave them alone, as she wanted to protect her children, and from there, we get the Panorama footage. A segment is shown of Diana once again berating the press.
Harry then comments on the nature of his mum’s separation from his father and how this affected the early days of his relationship with Meghan. We are then treated to plenty of footage of the couple together, and Harry explains how similar Meghan is to his mum.
Eventually, we get to the death of Diana, and it is hard not to feel sympathy as Harry explains how he felt and how he still had to perform his duties after her death. The footage of him walking behind his mum’s coffin is perhaps the first real moment of humanity that we see in this show. Harry at Eton, going to clubs, lashing out at the paparazzi, and becoming involved in drugs shows again the public interest and pressure that comes from the press on his life, pressure that he then tries to escape from.
Working abroad in Africa, we see him in a genuinely warm light, trying to carry on the work of his mum.
This of course loops back to his relationship with Meghan, and their trip in 2016 to Botswana. This trip was the cement to their ongoing relationship. Most of this episode could pretty much be about life in the Royal Family, the footage inevitably snakes back around to Harry and Meghan, and by the end of the episode, the public becomes aware of their relationship, and various sound bites feed us the tone that the reveal brings, ending the episode on a hook.
Episode two starts with the couple being chauffeured in New York, and again the paparazzi are the initial focus. This segment is punctuated by vile statements about Meghan on social media. Next up, we get Meghan’s mum in an interview, and she is keen to get her views across, and this leads to plenty of clips of Meghan and a dive into her background. There are certainly more shots fired at the press and this seems to be a theme for the series on the whole.
Segments have a constant stream of soft piano music behind them, and the episode starts to feel like a filmed Wikipedia page. If you are incredibly interested in Meghan, this episode is for you. Race becomes a major part of the narrative, and Harry and Meghan explain how they coped with the race element that was becoming more prevalent in the press. Harry issues a statement about the harassment, and the press are told to “back off”.
Meghan recalls meeting The Queen for the first time, and explains how she thought the protocol of meeting The Queen was at first “a joke”. We get to the end of the second episode with news of the engagement and the public response. Episode three starts with interview footage, lots of Diana references, and some strange editing choices. Once again the paparazzi are heavily referenced, and there are more talking heads. The main thrust of the episode focuses on the slave trade and Britain’s colonial history.
The episode starts to feel like a history lesson and leads us to 2017 and the first walkabout of Harry and Meghan. It all went really well. Meanwhile, in 2021, Meghan’s friend Daniel is doing her makeup while Harry plays Elton John in their New York apartment, explaining how Royal press experts work. Once again, this episode is obsessed with the media’s interpretation of events. We meet Meghan’s niece, and see Meghan and her rekindle their relationship. Meghan experiences Christmas with her soon-to-be in-laws and enjoys being in a big family over the holiday season.
There is a scandal as a racist brooch is worn by Princess Michael of Kent. She apologizes, and the show then focuses on 2005, and Harry dressed as a Nazi at a party. Harry explains that he spoke to a Rabbi after this, as well as a concentration camp survivor. Back in 2021, the couple is filmed visiting an air force base in New Jersey, leading to clips of Harry as a soldier, where he served in two tours of Afghanistan.
Meghan then references the film The Princess Diaries as she explains her anxiety about the upcoming wedding, and Googling the UK’s national anthem in an attempt to learn about protocol. The show then gives us a segment on Meghan’s choice of dress color, and Meghan explains how they were playing whack-a-mole with the press, as they were digging in the dirt to find anything to write about.
Cue more talking heads about how the Royal Family works. The wedding is approaching, the press seizes a story about Meghan’s father staging photographs, and the story breaks that her dad won’t be at the wedding, seemingly in hospital with a suspected heart attack. Meghan and Harry fear that her father’s phone has been compromised. The episode ends with the wedding day imminent.
The final three episodes of this series will drop on December 15th, 2022, but to be honest, the first three really offered very little that was either controversial or even insightful. There is very little meat on the bone here, and the first three episodes are stitched together in a very dull and labored way.
If you have an interest in the Royal Family, I do not think you will find anything here that is new or ground-breaking.
We have pretty much seen and heard all of this before, and I am afraid that the interviews with the couple are insipid and self-indulgent. This is surely just a show designed for fans of the couple, as there is nothing new, original or revelatory on display here.
On top of that, the music is grating, the obsession with the press is hammered into the ground, and the hypocrisy of Harry and Meghan, continually berating the intrusive nature of the media, and then courting it at every opportunity, cannot go unmentioned. This all seems like a slow and uninvolving project that will really have to go some distance in its remaining episodes to become even slightly noteworthy.
What did you think of the Netflix series Harry & Meghan season 1? Comment below.