IT IS a drama that cuts to the heart of the British establishment, yet relatively few people here have seen, or even heard of it.
But Hollywood’s approbation for The Crown, a majestic telling of the Queen’s life and reign, today set in motion a wholesale reshuffle of the seats at British broadcasting’s top table.
At the shimmering Golden Globe Awards, Claire Foy, an actress who spent part of her childhood in West Yorkshire and who had been best known previously for the title role in Little Dorrit and as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall, was named best actress in a TV drama for her portrayal of Elizabeth II, from her marriage to Prince Philip to her icy denial in the mid-Fifties of her sister Margaret’s wish to marry the divorcee Grp Capt Peter Townsend.
The Crown itself was named best television drama series. Ordinarily, a production of such scale, ambition and not a little controversy, would have been a national talking point for months. But it has not, and will not be seen on the BBC, nor ITV or even Channel 4. Instead, the online video-on-demand service Netflix produced and financed it sngle-handed, and has made it available only to paid subscribers.
Danny Cohen, the BBC’s former director of television, has admitted he was frustrated not to have been able to afford to produce, or even co-produce, what he called “a classic BBC subject”, and said the broadcaster was now asking itself how it could keep pace with giant media companies operating in global markets.
But today’s coronation of the series by Hollywood’s great and good sent a signal that television is no longer purely the domain of traditional broadcasters.
Miss Foy, 32, described her win as an “out of body experience”, and paid tribute to the Queen, who, she said, had “been at the centre of the world the past 63 years”.
“I think the world could do with a few more women at the centre of it if you ask me,” she added.
The Crown, which also stars the American actor John Lithgow as Sir Winston Churchill and the former Doctor Who, Matt Smith, as the Duke of Edinburgh, beat Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, This Is Us and Westworld to the Best Drama title. Of those, only This Is Us is made by a traditional, terrestrial broadcaster, America’s NBC.
It was not the only British success of the night. Tom Hiddleston was named best actor in a limited television series for his performance in the BBC thriller The Night Manager, while Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman collected awards for their supporting roles on the show. London actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for best supporting role in a movie, for his portrayal of a psychopathic drifter in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.
The British tally of five Globes, which are awarded by Hollywood’s Foreign Press Association, was the highest of the decade, but it was America’s home-grown movies and TV shows that dominated the proceedings.
The Los Angeles musical La La Land won seven awards including best comedy, while the raw and moving Moonlight was named best film drama.
The People Versus OJ Simpson: American Crime Story beat The Night Manager to win the award for best limited TV series.
• Claire Foy saw off competition from Winona Ryder, Evan Rachel Wood, Caitriona Balfe and Keri Russell to take her best actress award.
It was her performance as Anne Boleyn, opposite Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, that brought her to national attention, but The Crown has now taken her to Hollywood’s A-list.
The Hollywood Reporter hailed the show as “a starmaker” for her, while the showbusiness bible Variety praised her “clarity and phenomenal control”.
The Crown was scripted by Peter Morgan, whose other credits include the film version of The Damned United, the story of Brian Clough’s brief reign at Leeds United.