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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Joel Golby

Palm Royale: A star-studded, beach club bitchfest with Ricky Martin as an evil waiter

Kristen Wiig in Palm Royale.
Pool runnings … Kristen Wiig in Palm Royale. Photograph: Apple TV+

Nobody has brought this up for a while, but there are a lot of streaming platforms right now. I know, I know: 2022 called, and it wants its half-observation back. But there are, and that’s semi-interesting again because they have started to step out of the coagulated “Let’s copy Netflix as much as possible” ooze and become their own individual things. Prime Video has really found a rhythm with its originals, squeezing every drop of juice out of The Boys as well as having its live sport and Freevee offerings. Disney+ has gone hard on Marvel and Star Wars, obviously, but also has a load of big-budget prequel series for both as well as a huge play-it-in-the-background comedy library. Paramount+ has Yellowstone, and I’m sure … it has some other stuff, too. I keep being surprised by where I can watch 30 Rock (it’s currently on ITVX) and where I can’t watch anything else (I’m forever near a TV saying: “Where on Earth can I stream an old BBC show I’d sort of forgotten the name of?” And the answer is always: BritBox). You can watch 3rd Rock from the Sun on Channel 4, which is what All4 is called now. Everyone’s up to something.

So what about Apple TV+? It’s been hard to figure out what their deal is. There have been a couple of certifiable hits: Ted Lasso felt like the first one to make people finally go from month-long free trial to actual subscription, but Slow Horses, Severance and Foundation have been pulling in numbers, too. In the last couple of years, it has become clear that Apple has a major strategy: give a name star an executive producer credit and the freedom to do whatever the hell they want, and really, really hope for the best. So this is how we get: Mythic Quest with Rob McElhenney; Platonic with Rose Byrne and Seth Rogan; Loot with Maya Rudolph; and – yeah, wow, they really did let Joseph Gordon-Levitt make 10 episodes of Mr Corman, didn’t they? And Shrinking, I had forgotten about Shrinking. Harrison Ford’s first real TV role and it was – never mind. The less said about the imminent threat of “season two of Idris Elba’s Hijack” the better.

So who’s next? That would be Kristen Wiig with Palm Royale (from 20 March), and you ought to be sitting down for this cast list: Allison Janney, Laura Dern, Carol Burnett, Kaia Gerber, Leslie Bibb and Ricky Martin. It is 1969, and Wiig plays Maxine Simmons, an outlandishly dressed outsider-looking-in who is desperate to infiltrate a Palm Beach high society resort club, and will scale walls, spread gossip and scheme and steal and lie in an effort to do so. Working against her is a power struggle between Janney’s Evelyn and Bibb’s Dinah to be the resort’s Queen Bee, a rapidly dwindling bank account, Ricky Martin being a very mean waiter, “Richard Nixon” and Laura Dern in a floppy hat being a hippy feminist.

There are elements of a lot of shows I hated recently but other people loved: the “Why are these people talking to each other? They hate each other” society drama of Bridgerton, the “What if it was sunny? Would that be better than the script being good?” that’ll-doism of Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, plus both the desperate and the housewives elements of Desperate Housewives. In Janney and Wiig, the show has two of the planet’s best tight-smile actresses. Wiig in particular brings over what she did so well in Bridesmaids and amplifies it: those excruciating social interactions where you don’t quite realise someone is being rude to you or that you’re being embarrassing – and it’s a lot of fun to watch them flare their eyes at each other like poolside apex predators. At some point in the writers’ room, someone wrote “Mad Men but with women?” on a whiteboard, but that message only trickled down to the costume department. There’s a lot there, then, and some of it is enjoyable.

I have given up trying to figure out which Apple TV+ shows you lot will like, though. The amount of people who have come up to me in real life and said: “I liked Hijack. I liked how Idris Elba got on that plane” is out of control. People have told me at length how they enjoyed Shrinking. “The Essex Serpent? The one with Tom Hiddleston? I actually thought it wasn’t actively bad.” OK, do whatever you want. Apple’s TV-making plan is clearly working. Whatever Pete Davidson ends up doing with his $20m budget and unlimited creative freedom is between you and him.

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