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TELEVISION / A PROVOCATIVE THOUGHT: CHARLES THE LAST

What awaits the Windsors once Elizabeth goes on her way?

Headshot of John Doyle

jdoyle@globeandmail.com

The Royal freakin' Family. Do not get me started. Don't.

Recently, Princes Charles (Chuck, as he's called in my house) and his missus, the Duchess of Something-or-Other, came to Canada for a visit and look-see. What did it all mean? Traffic snarls, mostly. And young TV reporters faking on-air excitement in the mistaken belief that viewers were giddy at the sight of Chuck and the Duchess of Something-or-Other peering at Canada in the way that French visitors to England peer at what is presented as "English cuisine."

The excitement was lacking, you'd have to say. I mean, it's not like David Beckham came here with his missus. Which reminds me. As constant readers will know, I get around. Here, there and everywhere for the soccer. One of the most dismaying experiences is watching England play at a big tournament. (When it manages to qualify, that is.) At anthem time, the great mass of English supporters belt out God Save the Queen with gusto. Then, many of them proceed to boo the anthem of the opposing team. Sporting it isn't. But it seems to go in tandem with God Save the Queen - the hostility, the rudeness, the disregard for others. See, now you've got me started.

Which brings me to tonight's main event. The gist of the documentary After Elizabeth II (CBC, 8 p.m.) is this: Enough already with the royals. Made by John Curtin, the program outlines all the reasons the English monarchy is past it, overrated and overpaid. It's a masterful dismissal.

It opens in an English winter and we are informed that "the House of Windsor is under siege." No kiddin'. Then it's on to a debate at the Oxford Union where the relevancy of the monarchy is debated. Various chaps with plummy voices argue for and against. And then we are told that "the world's most coveted photo op is with the Queen."

In the matter of the relevancy of the royals, there's a certain "on the one hand, and then on the other hand." We're told that there is a widespread belief that the monarchy helps the British tourist industry, but then are informed that more people are interested in going to Legoland than to Windsor Castle. This balancing goes on until the focus is on Chuck. Sorry, Charles.

"Charles carries daunting liabilities," somebody says. What is meant is the sordid after-mess of his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales. We see part of Diana's big-eyed, sad-eyed TV interview about Charles and his family. We begin to form the impression that the program is telling us that Charles is a bit of a cad. Next, there's a summary of the outlandish and often loutish behaviour of sons William and Harry. Nazi regalia for some jolly knees-up is mentioned. Mentioned, too, is the word "vulgarity."

We meet a reporter who says she "swabbed" areas of the exclusive nightclubs frequented by the young royals, for evidence of cocaine, and "it was all over the place." The "swabbing" was an FBI-endorsed technique, apparently.

There's much material about one Kate Middleton, a woman I am not familiar with. I gather that she is Prince William's on-off girlfriend. Apparently he hasn't popped the question and certain elements of the English press refer to her as "Waity Katie." The value of this information is unclear.

Anyway, a rather damning portrait of Charles emerges. He is described as espousing "eccentric political causes," and one pundit says "he will be the death of the monarchy."

Also that he makes his views known to government ministers. "He writes letters to government ministers all the time. He bombards them. He drives them insane." It is pointed out that in a democracy, authority does not derive automatically from bloodlines. We're told that Charles personally saw to it that a large development in London was never built. As somebody points out, it would have created a lot of jobs. Some buskers interviewed in Liverpool suggest - the accent is hard to decipher, mind you - that the monarchy is a crock.

A Canadian angle arrives, eventually. A poll shows that many us of do not give a rodent's posterior about the monarchy. Michael Valpy, of this parish, disagrees with suggestions that we sever connections with the monarchy. "Leave it alone. You're throwing out five centuries of tradition," he says.

Valpy is an excellent fella and all but, at this point, I'm all, "Don't get me started." There are plenty of things anchored in centuries of tradition that aren't worth keeping. Plenty.

We are left with this conclusion from one speaker: "He will be Charles the Last." Jolly good, I say. I'd cheer that. Not boo it. And as the doc makes clear, I'm not the only one.

Check local listings.

Also airing tonight

CSI (CTV, 8 p.m.; CBS, 9 p.m.) is the conclusion of the three-part CSI-franchise crossover. We're back in Vegas. "The CSI team helps Langston investigate a prostitution ring that may have harboured a hostage Langston had been looking for in Miami and New York." Prostitution, organ harvesting, murder. That's the gist.

FlashForward (A, ABC, 8 p.m.) is a show I'm liking. Tonight, Mark cuts short his romantic getaway with Olivia when he discovers a lead about the tattooed assassin seen in his flash-forward. Did you see the shoot-'em-up scene to the music of Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone? Brilliant. J.D.

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