Royal Wedding Spawns Dueling TV Movies, But Do Americans Care?

You know an event is gearing up to be something special when there emerges not one, but two made-for-TV movies about it.

The upcoming wedding of England’s Prince William to long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton on April 29 would appear to be shaping up as just such an event, now that Hallmark Channel has announced its own TV movie about the royal nuptials, the second one to come along recently.

Hallmark’s movie – titled “William & Kate: A Love Story” – won’t premiere until next August (on the 13th – a Saturday – if you really must mark your calendar now), according to Hallmark’s announcement on Wednesday. No sooner did the news of Hallmark’s movie start spreading around than Lifetime issued a press release of its own on Wednesday, naming an airdate for its own Kate and William movie.

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Lifetime’s movie, titled “William & Kate,” had been announced previously, but the airdate announcement – Monday, April 18 – may have likely been made just now to capitalize on the stories that would be written about Hallmark’s movie (such as this one).

Lifetime’s movie is evidently well along in the production process, while Hallmark’s is not yet cast. It does have a producer though: Linda Yellin, who previously produced another TV movie about a royal couple, “The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana.” Lifetime’s movie stars Nico Evers-Swindell as William and Camilla Ludington as Kate.

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Lifetime also announced it will air a six-hour documentary series, “Royal Wedding of a Lifetime,” that same week, spread over at least three nights. By devoting multiple hours to programming related to the royal wedding, Lifetime is signaling its belief that American TV audiences are excited about the wedding and will be even more excited in the days leading up to it.

TLC has also announced its intention to play up the wedding with special wedding-related programs – two of which, two Sunday night specials, have already aired. On the week of the wedding, TLC plans wedding-related shows every night, co-produced with ITV Studios America. “This is without question the most widely anticipated wedding in a generation,” ITV Studios America President and CEO Paul Buccieri commented in a press release TLC put out last month.

Well, that’s what he says. Actually, whether this wedding is “without question” an important event to U.S. TV viewers is, in fact, the big question for any TV network weighing the pros and cons of covering it. And of course, whether Americans care about it will be more evident when the ratings come in after the fact, since it will likely be aired live on all of our big networks here.

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Is there a palpable level of excitement about this wedding? Here are the arguments for and against the networks (cable and broadcast) going all-out to capitalize on it:

The argument for: These things happen only once in a generation, or less, and TV’s decision-makers would be crazy to downplay an event that, just for its pomp and ceremony alone, will make for spectacular television. And while some might actually believe that Americans are tired to the point of boredom with the soap opera saga of Britain’s royal family, that soap opera is a great story. We happen to love great soap opera stories and we love the British too, whether we admit it or not. Moreover, a hugely popular movie about the royal family – “The King’s Speech,” about the direct ancestors of William – has a good chance of sweeping the Oscars. If Americans don’t care about the English royals, then how do you explain “The King’s Speech”?

The argument against: See the arguments above and turn them around, especially the ones about whether Americans care about the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding in England. The truth is, some people care, but a lot of people do not. They are, in fact, repelled by the monarchy and agree with some people even in England who think the cost of supporting these anachronistic royals in their palaces and limousines is an inexcusable drain on the national treasury. In addition, many Americans are cynical about royal weddings in the aftermath of the wedding of Charles and Diana, whose marriage began unraveling almost as soon as it began. Those Americans will be waiting to see if the same thing happens to Wills and Kate.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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