Sometimes you have to wonder, if incompetence is a precondition to become a film or TV critic. Should you work for the Fairfax media, this alone would not qualify you for the job. A critic must be a raging republican with the ability to abuse the Australian Monarchy at every moment.
Take for example Louise Schwarzkoff, who gave her “critic’s view” on the new SBS series on the Danish Royal Family The Kingdom: Behind the Scenes (to be seen on SBS Two every Friday evening at 8 pm). "The British royal family could never allow a camera crew such access inside its palaces."
Nothing could be more wrong than her opening sentence. After having watched part one of the Danish documentary on 25th February one is reminded of the British series A Year with the Royal Family, shown in Australia in February 2008 on Channel Nine. The style was very similar. The cameras got very close access to Prince Philip who took the TV crew on a ride. The microphones caught very funny statements from Princess Anne and Prince Edward on how they feel when they are “on royal duty”. Not to mention the very impressive testimony of The Duke of Gloucester, who - as son of an Australian Governor-General - spent a couple of years in Australia.
On the first evening A Year with the Royal Family attracted 1.33 million viewers across the nation. This led the more serious programmes, Borderline with 0.989 viewers, Top Gear with 0.799 and the return of Kerry O' Brien to the 7.30 Report, with 0.657 viewers.
Louise Schwartzkoff was obviously not among the 1.33 Australians who watched the British documentary. May be she was appalled by her colleague Tim Elliott’s cranky sausage remarks in The Age on 4th February 2008:
Any program on the English monarchy is bound to be of interest, if only because you sit watching, hoping against hope, to spot a visible panty line or hear, perhaps, HRH inquiring of her Guard at Arms where one might find the crapper. For more than a year, the makers of this six-part documentary were granted "intimate access" to the workings of the British royal family, with tonight's opener focusing on a state visit to the US.Their Fairfax colleague Larry Schwartz, however, actually watched the documentary and admitted: “You don’t need to be a monarchist to be impressed by this six-part series that tonight sets out to show “what it means to sit on a 20th-century-throne”. (The Age, 18th February 2008).
You can hardly expect Big Brother but hopes of any insights are fast extinguished, smothered by Cate Blanchett's fawning narration and an impenetrable blanket of cliches: we hear how hard the White House flower arranger has worked and get some meaningless waffle from Dale Haney, the presidential dog walker.
The Queen, meanwhile, comes across as a cranky old sausage, bored with the ceaseless sycophancy and pointless appointments. "I can't be everywhere," she says, with a dyspeptic smirk. "I can't do everything."
And another quote from the Melbourne newspaper: A BBC series, recently aired on Channel Nine, Monarchy: the Royal Family at work gives an unprecedented peek into the life and work of Queen Elizabeth and her family over the course of a year. (The Sunday Age, March 2008).
Agreed, you cannot watch everything, but before a critic hits out (Louise Schwartzkoff: “The personable Scandinavians could teach the scandal-plagued House of Windsor a thing or two.”) a journalist's duty must be to consult the own newspaper's archive. Or is the knowledge of how to keep an archive in the times of Google and Wikipedia already lost? Fairfax journalism reached a new low point.