PBS’ ‘Victoria’ extravagantly portrays another young queen, but she’s a bit of a bore
“Victoria,” premiering Sunday on PBS’ “Masterpiece,” stars Jenna Coleman as the teenager who in 1837 became England’s queen for the next six decades. It joins Netflix’s Queen Elizabeth II drama “The Crown” as yet another escape into the opulent, occasionally melancholy history of British royalty.
“Victoria,” created and written by Daisy Goodwin, will almost certainly please public television’s core audience, who are happiest when hoofs clop, gravel crunches and maids curtsy.
Predictable to the bone — and at times maddeningly redundant — “Victoria” too often feels like a period drama about the making of a period drama, rather than a deep, authentic breath of rarefied air.
Goodwin delays giving Victoria much of a personality for several episodes. The series opens on the morning she learns that the time has come for her to ascend the throne and spoiled Victoria impetuously sets about ignoring the advice of her stressed-out mother, the Duchess of Kent (Catherine Flemming) and her scheming adviser, Sir John Conroy (Paul Rhys). “You have my mother in your pocket, but you will never, ever have me,” Victoria spits at Sir John at one point.
The young queen immediately warms to the country’s prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), who carefully teaches and advises Victoria on all the things she doesn’t know. Not only does she depend on him, she develops a serious crush on him — as does the viewer, because Sewell is so much more interesting than anyone in the palace.
Goodwin chooses to set at least half of “Victoria” downstairs with the servants, where animosities and working-class travails play out like pages from a script that “Downton Abbey” discarded. The series is clearly tasked, at least in the States, with filling the void “Downton” left behind.
The more you watch of it, the more cold and calculating “Victoria” seems, as if was made for moving PBS tote bags rather than moving hearts.
Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria.