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Mary: The Making of a Princess

It's been a disappointing year of local drama from TEN, but can Mary give it a fairytale ending?

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When your biggest recent hit has been two Reality shows about finding love, there’s some logic in putting to air a true life fairytale romance in the form of a drama.

TEN does just that this weekend with Mary: The Making of a Princess, dramatising the tale of Mary Donaldson, who was wooed by Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark. The story of how they met during the 2000 Olympics is well-entrenched in our memories thanks to endless tabloid fodder.

TEN’s promos brashly claim they will now tell us the story “you don’t know,” without any claims of this being an authorised version. It’s not clear how this FremantleMedia production has the inside dirt on what was said in bedrooms, beach strolls and long distance phone conversations. Frankly, the promo had me worried. Would this be a bogan-to-riches story? TEN is, after all, the network that gave us Jackie O hosting a pointless Reality show, Australian Princess.

A few concerns aside, it’s not a complete misfire….

Sure, opening scenes of Mary jogging along Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk spotting endless romantic couples to the sounds of a Dean Martin song are none too subtle. And yes there is some bogan dialogue between her housemates: “You need a dirty pash!” or meeting tourists at the Slip Inn, “I’m Mary from Tassie. Who wants Margaritas?”

But just as Sam Frost was a perfectly loveable dag, the same target audience may well find something similar from the performance of Anna Hamilton.

After meeting Frederik (Ryan Kane) over a drink, Mary is convinced he is simply another bloke spinning a line to impress her. But housemates Amber, played by Renae Small, and Andrew, played by Gig Clarke find evidence online (thanks to dial-up modems and an IMAC, no less!).

Frederik pursues the spirited Aussie gal, enjoying relative anonymity and doing his best to lose Danish security and stern chief of court Per Thornitt (Nicholas Hope). Amid an over-produced cocktail jazz soundtrack there is skinny dipping at Bondi Beach and a bedroom scene by the 20 minute mark. This prince apparently works fast.

“I don’t know what you were thinking but I’m here to spoon,” he tells her. Liar.

Mary is depicted with an earthiness and cynicism. She is drawn to this handsome European, but how can this be anything other than a holiday romance? But ‘Fred’ as she calls him, doesn’t give up, scheduling return trips to Australia whilst hoping not to attract the attention of Danish media.

One cluey journo however, hires an Aussie paparazzo (Leah Purcell) to snap tell-tale pictures and soon their romance hits the front pages. There are shades of Princess Diana with a paparazzi car chase…

Families, both in Tasmania and Copenhagen, are also portrayed -notably Angela Punch-McGregor plays Queen Margrethe II.

The second half of the telemovie comprises Mary’s transformation into Danish royalty, in awe of the stately trappings, learning etiquette and language but struggling with the media spotlight.

“They write ‘There’s Nothin About Mary,'” she tells Fred.

“It’s the longest audition for a job I don’t even know I want.”

Emma Hamilton manages to find a daggy spirit that works better the more it goes on. Ryan O’Kane, who is a dead ringer for Frederik, is determined and playful. It was sometimes tricky on the ear to tune between her flat Aussie accent and his clipped Euro tone.

I appreciated seeing some new faces as Mary’s housemates and pleasingly, Copenhagen has also been used for later exterior scenes.

Sam Strauss’ script aims for the broadest possible target, when it could have arguably aimed higher. Veering largely between romantic romp and transformation tale, there were also times when it dragged.

TEN has a rich history of excellent dramas: Puberty Blues, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, The Secret Life of Us, Offspring, The Dismissal, but in 2015 it has fallen rather short.

After such a long wait for new work Mary: The Making of a Princess is not exactly a fairytale ending, but the cast try to sprinkle some magic.

Mary: The Making of a Princess airs 8:30m Sunday on TEN.

8 Responses

  1. it always helps with bio’s that the actors look like the people they are playing, they both do have quite an uncanny resemblance. I found for example the INXS mini series had a few actors that didn’t look remotely like the people they played (from memory the Tim Farris & Gary Beers actors) So it makes it harder to be convincing especially for someone like myself who is a long term fan & very familiar with the people being portrayed.

  2. Your 2.5 star review tells me all I need to know David. Seems to me like this should’ve been made five years ago. Ten screening it right at the end of the ratings year makes me think they are not happy with the end product and have no confidence in it performing.

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