The less than wonderful Queen of Oz

For comedy to be funny it needs to be believable and it’s hard to find anything much believable or funny in the new locally made Catherine Tate comedy Queen of Oz.

Princess Georgiana (Catherine Tate) is the gaff-prone daughter of the current British monarch. Having screwed up one time too many, by vomiting on a schoolgirl presenting her with a model of Buckingham Palace, her family send her to Australia, where she will found and lead a local monarchy.

Catherine Tate as Queen Georgiana sitting on a throne next to an Australian flag holding a glass of wine

Wait, what? We know this is a work of fiction, and watching it involves some suspension of disbelief, but Queen of Oz is expecting us to buy that the Australian government agrees to let our current (foreign) monarch step aside in favour of their wayward daughter, thus establishing an Australian monarchy, rather than, you know, becoming a republic? That’s the kind of plot you write if you still think Britain’s former colonies just accept that kind of thing. Like it’s the 1940s when the abdicated Edward VIII got packed off to be Governor of Bermuda because he had Nazi sympathies and the British wanted him out of Europe.

But let’s be generous to Queen of Oz, set all that improbability aside, and accept that this is plausible. It’d be really funny to have a drug-taking, smoking, drinking, shagging mess-up as monarch of Australia, right? Ummm…

Look, let’s just say the scripts aren’t great. Or, possibly more to the point, the show is dominated by Queen Georgiana and Catherine Tate plays her as a snooty, bitchy bin fire turned up to 11, and if you don’t find that character and her performance funny and interesting then you’re out of luck as pretty much no other character gets a look in.

And this is a shame, as Queen of Oz has a solid supporting cast of very able performers, including Jenna Owen (The Feed) as the Queen’s PR/social media whiz kid Zoe, Marc Collins (Mystery Road) as the Queen’s bodyguard Marc, Robert Coleby (Patrol Boat) as the Queen’s private secretary Bernard, William McKenna (The Messenger) as the Queen’s assistant Matthew, Rachel Gordon (Blue Heelers) as Prime Minister Rebecca Stewart, lady-in-waiting Anabel (Niky Wardley) and David Roberts (Please Like Me) as media mogul Richard Steele. Yet, apart from the odd scene, we get almost no sense of who these characters are. And not one of them ever gets to drive a plot or create laughs.

Even in the second episode, where Georgiana tries to woo media mogul Richard in the hope that his outlets won’t lead with her latest blunder every day, the focus is kept very much on Georgiana. Which is an error, as great sitcoms which have centred on nasty or blundering characters, like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder, always got major laughs from the supporting cast. And amongst the above-mentioned supporting cast, there are several potential Sybil Fawlty-esque thorns in Georgiana’s side (e.g., media mogul Richard, republican Prime Minister Stewart), and several Baldrick-esque idiot off-siders (e.g., nervy assistant Matthew, lady-in-waiting Anabel).

But why make a well-rounded ensemble sitcom when you have major international star Catherine Tate? Having her dominate every scene of Queen of Oz with her screeching wreck of a central character will be great. It worked brilliantly for Chris Lilley.

You have to wonder whether the show’s funders, which includes the likes of Screen NSW, are proud of Queen of Oz – the ABC haven’t exactly been promoting it – especially when you read this little nugget, hidden away on the show’s Wikipedia page:

Catherine Tate first began developing the idea for the sitcom in 2017, after being approached by Canadian producer Borga Dorter. Initially, it was supposed to be set in Canada and was unsuccessfully pitched to local broadcasters as Queen of Canada.

Canada may have exported most of its great comedy talents (Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd) but they made the right call here.

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1 Comment

  • Andrew says:

    Just sat through this series on iview. It was a solid 5 out of 10 for me. It was ok, watchable even if not all that funny or even remotely plausible. A few chuckles here and there but not quite up with Ms Tate’s earlier work. I hope the ABC got it at a discount given it was a hand-me-down from Canada. Interesting to see that one of the exec producers was Jason Stephens of D-Gen/Late Show.