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TV review: Charles R: The making of a monarch, The Mysterious Mr Lagerfeld, and Malpractice

05 May 2023

© British Pathé

A screengrab of the Prince of Wales in an interview with Pathé News in 1969, about his imminent investiture in Wales, shown in Charles R: The making of a monarch (BBC1, Sunday)

A screengrab of the Prince of Wales in an interview with Pathé News in 1969, about his imminent investiture in Wales, shown in Charles R: The making o...

BBC1 presented our Sovereign with a kind of animated photo album, charting his life through TV and family film clips (some of them previously unseen), accompanied by his own words, spoken — apart from those scenes depicting his infancy, obviously — at the actual time of filming.

Most of Charles R: The making of a monarch (Sunday) was entirely familiar — little more than a comforting reprise of what we are already fully aware of. A few elements provided additional material, but there was already quite enough to awaken the armchair psychologists among us. I was struck by how much the camera and the King’s own unwitting commentary revealed what a very sensitive little boy and youth he was, and how the schooling regime chosen for him — Gordonstoun, and Geelong, in Australia — was surely an enforced toughening-up far more damaging than the “character-building” to which he paid tribute in his own account.

As always, shots showing the massed long-lens cameras of the press and paparazzi, peering over every wall and through every hedge, are deeply shocking, causing us to wonder how any human can build a remotely balanced life when subject to such omnipresent attention, never sure whether the resulting images will illustrate gushing adulation or critical contempt.

How he said it revealed more (as it always does) than what he said. Encouragingly, tone and expression of voice seemed most fully connected with his inner self in the final, most recent snippet, as, struggling with grief but buoyed up by faith, he paid tribute to his recently departed mother, and pledged to assume her absolute service to nation and Commonwealth.

BBC2 offered a somewhat contrasting biography in The Mysterious Mr Lagerfeld (Wednesday of last week). This was not someone having to deal with playing an unasked-for part thrust on him from birth: here, Karl L. set out quite deliberately to create a stylised persona exotic enough to reinforce the unique identity of his couture designs; his brand of clothing was an extension of personal distinctiveness. The documentary’s central mystery is: exactly who is going to inherit his vast wealth? Or perhaps what will inherit, because the rumour is that he left everything to his cat, Choupette.

Malpractice, the new Sunday-evening drama series (ITV1, from 23 April), employs the over-familiar trope of an almost supernaturally talented and committed hero, whose brilliance supposedly justifies cutting a few corners with her profession’s tiresome rules, and who hides a dark secret that could utterly destroy her career.

Yet this presentation of the A & E doctor Lucinda Edwards and her carefully hidden drug dependence has a raw vitality that I find engaging and compelling. To fight off a malicious disciplinary process, she tells lie after lie — but, as she descends in the resulting vortex, her frantic efforts to uncover the truth reveal criminal depths far worse than her own failings.

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