Embarrassing decision Harry might regret
For the first time in 34 years, there is now another member of the house of Windsor joining the failed producer in terms of toe-curling TV appearances.
Last night, Prince Harry's extended appearance on James Corden's The Late Late Show debuted, and in 17 minutes the now California-based royal has seemingly achieved the nearly impossible: Putting himself in the same league as his uncle Edward's legendarily cringe-worthy 80s TV project, the Grand Knockout Tournament, AKK It's A Royal Knockout.
During the course of the appearance, Harry and Corden ride about Los Angeles in a touristy open-topped bus.
Corden hammily serves him afternoon tea, Harry jokes "you know us royals don't carry cash", he takes part in a military style obstacle course for the lols, he affectionately jokes about Philip's Zoom etiquette, he reveals the Queen gave the Sussexes a waffle maker as a gift and when they stop at the house where the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was filmed (for a bit involving a play on the word 'prince') Her Majesty's grandson asks the gobsmacked owner if he might use her loo.
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(At least Edward's epic small screen folly, a PR self-immolation that will be talked about in hushed tones a century from now, didn't see him stop because he needed a wee.)
Let's start with the one bit of good news here: Harry looks happy. Laughing and soaking up far more vitamin D than he has most likely gotten in several decades, the sixth-in-line to the throne seems far more relaxed, cheerful and content than he has for years. Watching him proudly recount son Archie's first word (crocodile) his joy is simply infectious.
And we are glad - truly. The man has endured unspeakable loss and, as he also told Corden, in recent years has seen his mental health suffer.
It was lovely to see Harry chatting away about his life in LA (waffles! Takeaways!) on camera rather than his more usual video appearances which often see him sitting on his couch, brow furrowed, as he grimly enunciates the world's ills.
But that doesn't quite answer the 30-foot high question here written in flashing neon lights: For the love of god Harry, why?
Why? Who was this in aid of? Which cold brew sipping wunderkind from their PR firm thought this exercise in undergraduate humour was a cracking idea? Why submit himself to this sort of japery for, seemingly, no better reason than to earn himself bucketloads of publicity?
According to the Telegraph, "A source close to the Duke said he considered it a good opportunity to have some fun, while also opening up about his life and his decisions during what had been 'a bit of a heavy time'."
"Have some fun"?
Why not get a PlayStation or learn how to wakeboard or see if Brad Pitt wants to go and ride motorbikes in long lazy loops around Joshua Tree?
Given Harry's animosity at times to some quarters of the press, the notion of having "fun" around cameras is a bit of a head scratcher.
(Still, the Sussexes' Netflix paymasters would surely have been chuffed to get two oh-so-casual mentions in the duo's on-screen chat.)
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In a week and a bit, Harry and wife Meghan the Duchess of Sussexes' 90-minute sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey will air (it was filmed earlier this month.) At least that TV outing, I'm guessing, will see them put their side of recent events across, vigorously and passionately making the case for why they had to take the drastic action they did and quit working royal life.
But this? This feels more like the sort of skit we are used to seeing when some A-lister has a new blockbuster they need to plug and are desperate to get bums on movie theatre seats.
If cracking the US market or making it in the States requires trading part of one's dignity for YouTube streams then Harry needs to get back to Canada as fast as a borrowed private jet can take he and his family to find out if they happen to need a new Governor-General right about now.
It all just feels a bit cheap, like finding out the redoubtable Duchess of Kent has joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars. (She, like the Sussexes, was formerly a working member of the royal family, however "handed back" her HRH and for the better part of the last ten years has worked incognito as a primary school music teacher.)
Perhaps part of the answer to this eternal scream of "why?" lies in a couple of the questions Corden asks, and the prince's flawless answers.
Harry, or "Haz" as we learn Meghan calls him when she pops up for a supposedly impromptu FaceTime call, wheels out what feels like a couple of smidgen-too-polished rejoinders on thorny issues about Megxit and their decision to take Netflix's cash.
On their historic decision to leave royal working life, Harry wheels out what feels like a workshopped answer, saying it was about "stepping back" rather than "stepping down" and that: "We never walked away. As far as I'm concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away. I will always be contributing".
"My life is public service, so wherever I am in the world it's always going to be the same thing. Meghan signed up to that, and the two of us enjoy doing that," he added.
Similarly, Harry also admitted to watching The Crown, arguing that it was "loosely based on the truth" and "not strictly accurate" before parrying with a jab at the press, saying: "I'm way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife or myself. Because that's obviously fiction, take it how you will, but this is reported on as fact because you're supposedly news. And I have a real issue with that."
Overall, it feels like he is trying to subtly go on the offensive and to disarm some potential criticisms of the couple. See! They didn't quit in a huff, they are just "stepping back"! It's fine to work with Netflix, despite the company's golden goose of a prestige offering, The Crown, having turned his family's history into a soap opera, because it's only fictional!
Watching the video, which has so far racked up 3.2 million views, it's hard to get past the sense that this whole mortifying episode is in aid of selling Harry to America and the idea that he's not a normal royal! He's a cool royal! (With a waffle maker to boot!)
Aside from whatever the Queen might have thought about her grandson making a TV splash, the timing could not have been worse for the palace. Yesterday, the Queen took part in a Zoom call with officers responsible for the UK's COVID-19 vaccine rollout and made a very rare public intervention on a controversial issue by urging Britons to also get the jab.
Which do you think will garner more press and public interest: A 94-year-old urging people to think of others or watching a prince of the realm admit he needs to wee?
Whatever Harry and Meghan believe they have or will gain out of his Corden appearance, I hope they get it. If they need anyone to explain to them in excruciating detail how trading one's grace and self-respect for moolah and media coverage can be quite the Faustian bargain then they need look no further than his aunt (and It's a Royal Knockout contestant) Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. You know, the woman who went from officially representing the Queen to being the author of Dieting with the Duchess and (this is true) spruiking juicers on the home shopping network. (Dignity, she hardly knew thee.)
And in the meantime, if this is just a taster of what Harry is happy to dish up when the cameras are rolling then the Sussexes' Oprah appearance on March 8 (AEDT) is going to be a doozy.
Good news Edward! You might be about to be finally toppled from the mortifying TV post.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.
Originally published as Embarrassing decision Harry might regret