TV Reviews

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Oprah just made television history

Anyone who knows me in my personal life knows that I’m a fan of the monarchy. I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m a monarchist… I’m more of a royalist. Specifically – I’ve always been a fan of Queen Elizabeth II.

When people think of the Royal family they often think of me and over the years I’ve been gifted royal mugs, tea towels, collectors stamps, prints… the list goes on. The origin story of my association with the Queen starts when I met her 2010. She is the patron of Girl Guiding UK and as a former Girl Guide herself, she often invites members to her events. I was chosen to be part of the Girl Guide delegation was able to have a conversation with her. I just remember her beaming at me as I told her about how proud I was of being in Girl Guides.

That meeting ended up feeding a major camp prank that I pulled off while I was at Camp Mi-A-Kon-Da. It’s a longer story – but together with the other staff we were able to convince all the campers that the Queen camp to camp. It’s one of those stories still talked about.

Then we started hosting parties for Royal events. At the weddings – both Kate & Wills and Meg & Harry – I hosted large groups of people to drink tea, eat scones, pop champagne and watch the festivities.

While I was at university, I wrote my Cana4000 essay on The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2012 Royal Tour of Canada. I studied the relationship between their chosen tour stops and the idea of what it means to be Canadian. I was really interested in how tours like this contribute to national mythology. It was and still is fascinating to me.

When people ask me why I like the Royals – I often tell them these stories, but I also talk a lot about their patronages and charity visits. Sure The Queen has a constitutional job to be the head of the commonwealth, but the day-to-day job for the Royal family as a whole is to visit charities — bringing awareness to the causes and boosting the spirits of the people doing the actual work. It’s the number one reason I love following the Royal Instagram accounts and learning about all the fantastic charities that are out there. I don’t need to see thirst trap photos from the Kardashians – I want to see photos of everyday people trying to make a difference in their communities and the Royals do that really well.

I’m also obsessed with The Crown. But that’s a whole other story.

So I have a lot of biases. I’ve had a connection to this family that has been overwhelmingly positive and fun over the last decade.

I’m also Canadian which I think is a really unique place to start. The Brits are so close to this story and the Americans have always wanted to ‘spill the tea’ when it comes to the British monarchy. Canadians are somewhat in the middle – yes, it’s our monarchy but they are somewhat removed. Our media gets influenced by both the UK and by the US and we’re somewhat neutral in terms of coverage. Canadians have traditionally loved the Monarchy (I read a whole book while I was in undergrad about how Canadians value our spot as the “First Daughter of the Commonwealth” – it’s a whole thing). In terms of Harry and Meghan – we all loved how they met here, that when they first left the family they chose to live here – we just had a lot of ‘claim’ on these two especially which made us love them all that much more.

So this is why I care. I’m invested.

I have three things I want to talk about:
1) I want to talk about what Harry and Meghan said.
2)I want to talk about Oprah.
3) I want to talk about this as a television event.

What Meghan Markle and Prince Harry said

Well. We knew they were going to talk. I had no idea they were going to talk... and they talked.

We got some fun news – things like their gender reveal (they are having a girl!) and the fact that they did get married 3 days before their big formal ‘wedding’. We got some great clips of them in their chicken coop, and clips of them running around on the beach with Archie. There were some really warm and lovely moments and if that was all the interview was, it would have been lovely and would have still dominated headlines because people love a Royal baby/wedding/chicken.

However most of the interview was not fun.

First off – I believe what they’ve said. I think they’ve had a really tough few years. I think people have gone beyond rude and have been racist. It’s heartbreaking to see the lack of protection and support these two were given by the institution and the family, and the absolute vitriol that the British press slung towards them.

We knew Meghan had multiple “strikes” against her in the eyes of ‘traditionalists’ from the moment she started dating Prince Harry. She had the trifecta of “problems” – she was a Divorced Biracial American. It’s everything they hated about Wallis Simpson with a racist twist. In my opinion, she should have had triple the support from the Royal family and the institution to ensure that the press wouldn’t have a field day with her story. The fact that they never protected her is disgusting.

I think this is a good place to start with the idea of protection.

Meghan talked a lot about her mental health and her suicidal thoughts. She shared that she reached out for help and no help was given. I was shocked. As I said, I really admire the charity work and awareness work the Royals do and it is well known that the big charity for Harry and Will is Heads Together. They spend a lot of time trying to reduce the stigma of mental health and advocating for people to reach out for help. So the fact that Meghan was courageous enough to ask for help and then receive none is ridiculous.

She talked about how in her ‘last job’ she had a union she could go to for support – but when she turned to HR in this organization she got none. It is baffling to me on a human level. Sure the realistic/cynical side of me is not shocked at all – but I guess I try to see the best in people and I’m deeply disappointed.

Then you’ve got the whole ‘Meg vs Kate’ thing. For her to come out and correct the story and say that actually Kate made her cry, again – I was shocked. First off, I didn’t believe that Meg made Kate cry – because I hate sexist stories like this. I hated the alleged feud between the two women and I thought the original story was awful. I actually don’t need them to be friends IRL, I just hate the “pick one” narrative. I love both women for different reasons and I agree with what Meghan said – you don’t have to hate her if you love her or vise versa. Anyways, it did sound like at the end of that fight, Kate apologized and things were ok (because they are adults and people can work things out), but it does sound like there are still lingering tensions between the two couples because of the boys men.

One of the biggest bombs that dropped was the idea that they didn’t choose to not give Archie titles. That sparked my curiosity. Going into the interview, I didn’t really care either way if their kids have titles like “Prince” or not – because there is a precedence for Royal grandkids to not have titles. I’m thinking of Princess Anne’s kids – Peter and Zara. When Peter was born, he was 5th in line to the throne, and still wasn’t given a title or curtesy title. But after this revelation that Archie’s title was not a choice, I started looking into it and what I understand, Peter and Zara didn’t get titles because Anne was a woman, and only men get to pass down titles. So basically – this family/tradition is both sexist and racist in terms of who gets titles. I’m deeply curious if Harry has had conversations with his cousins about this. I’m also very curious as to what Princess Anne thinks about all of this. I feel like she’d have strong opinions. Or at least fictional ‘The Crown’ Princess Anne would have some *thoughts*.

Getting deeper into titles -the implication was that “they” didn’t want to give Archie (or any other Markel kid) a title because of skin tone. Which is BULLSHIT. It’s racist. It’s despicable. It’s truly one of the most awful things that came out of the interview. Oprah clarified on CBS This Morning that it wasn’t The Queen or Prince Phillip who asked questions about skin tone, but with Harry’s refusal to name the specific person – the speculation around who would ask that question went wild on social media this week. The collective thought is that it was Charles. Many are also suggesting that William might have asked as well. I wonder if Charles and William have asked Prince Andrew if he’s assaulted underage girls because frankly, that’s the real question anyone in that family should be asking. Just saying…

So obviously Harry and Meghan are upset abut this. Someone in the palace isn’t giving Archie a title for a bullshit reason and without a title, he doesn’t get any formal protection. That’s wrong on so many levels.

However here’s where it gets tricky.

We’ve got to talk about the Canadian angle when it comes to the idea of security. When they talk about the removal of security in the winter of 2020 – we, Canadian taxpayers, had been paying for their security while they were living in Canada. That’s complicated. There is a large portion of our population who do not want a monarchy and don’t understand why we are spending our tax dollars on them. Archie is currently seventh in-line to the throne. That’s not distant, but that’s also not close “enough”. I can understand why there would room to debate if public funds should be spent on this. The idea that you are a public person you get public security and if you are a private person you pay for private security gets tricky when you switch from public to private. It becomes a more complex issue – is that right or wrong? Where do you draw the line? I think the answer is yes of course pay to protect them, but I really can see an argument against it especially in Canada when they were doing very few public outings to promote Canadian causes. Its tricky.

I also think it’s worth noting that public opinion about Prince Harry and Meghan is complicated in Canada. I think a lot of Canadian monarchists were a bit hurt by the couple. It wasn’t really that they choose to leave the Royal family (because they were thrilled they moved to Canada) but more because when they did officially leave, they left Canada for… America. It was salt in the wound. If they had left us for any other commonwealth country that would have been fine… but America?! When Trump was President?! At the start of a Pandemic?! People here have complicated feelings.

When Harry finally joined Meghan I loved watching him back her up. It wasn’t just her on her own, they very much felt like a true partnership. It also felt like while Meghan was explaining her experiences and feelings (more on the defensive) – Harry came out and was extremely specific about things that had happened and his frustration with his own family (more on the offensive). I legitimately gasped when he slid in that his father stopped taking his calls. It was the casual FU way he said it that made it that much more of a ‘whoa’ moment. It was the same when he said he and his brother were currently taking space:

“As I said before, I love William to bits. We’ve been through hell together and we have a shared experience but we are on different paths,” he said. “The relationship is space at the moment and time heals all things, hopefully.”

When he dropped the ‘hopefully’ at the end – to me came across as there is no hope in hell this will happen unless William does something to repair it.

The one thing that Harry kept saying over and over and over again was how much he respected his grandmother – The Queen. He made it very clear that the problems he had were with staff and other family members – most pointedly his father.

Honestly if anything this whole interview was the most damaging to Charles which adds to the problems that the monarchy is facing in the commonwealth.

I think a lot of countries have questioned being a member of the commonwealth and having a monarchy – but like Harry, the countries respect the Queen too much as a person. They will not leave her. The issue becomes with succession. If Charles was to become King tomorrow, I don’t think many countries would ‘renew their membership’ if you know what I mean.

Plus with all the ‘staff problems’ that Harry talked about in the bonus clip Oprah brought to CBS This Morning, again I don’t know if people will be thrilled to stick around after The Queen retires or dies:

“No, when you’re head of The Firm, there are people around you that give you advice, and what has also made me really sad is that some of that advice has been really bad,” said Harry.

I know there were a lot of questions of the use of ‘The Firm’ ‘The Institution’ and ‘The Family’ – which was confusing because all three are the same. To clear it up – the ‘institution’ is more about the staff that help run the affairs of the Royals, the ‘family’ is the extended family (think kids, cousins etc), and “the firm” is the core eight sr royals: Queen Elizabeth II Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Princess Anne.

Overall – I think this interview will have long-lasting impacts. It gives the Americans something to gloat and gossip about, the Brits and the Royals something to reckon with, and the commonwealth a question to answer: do we want to stick with the Windsors as our leaders, or is it time to leave the commonwealth?

Before we move on to other topics, at one point Meghan said she never googled Prince Harry and I had to laugh. How do you not google someone you are dating?! I google everyone (maybe because that’s what I do for a living but…). It’s normal to look up the person and get a bit of a vibe. Plus Harry has some cute photos out there worth googling. Anyways this was your only mistake hun. Next time do a quick google. It might help.

Oprah showed us why she’s the best in the biz.

I grew up watching The Oprah Show. It was a huge part of my after-school routine. I have distinct memories of watching the Tom Cruise couch jump and the ‘You Get a Car’ giveaway show. She could interview regular people one day and celebrities the next. She was comfortable dealing with both heavy and light topics and each week would have a range of shows that always kept the show interesting. She was the best in the biz for a reason. People often ask me what my professional goals are and while I talk about Talk Shows in general, my answer always includes “I wish I could have been a producer on The Oprah Show”.

Oprah while great, is not perfect. In her later seasons, The Oprah Show felt like it had “sold out”. It just didn’t have the same authenticity as her earlier years. By the time she retired, it was time. After her retirement, she got a lot of flack for her elevation of Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz and continues to get called out for not formally denouncing them in recent years. She’s had ‘bad’ interviews over the years and has had valid pushback on certain topics she’s covered.

So when Oprah came out of retirement for this interview, a lot of people knew she used to good, but I think generally the public forgot just how good she is. With this interview, she reminded us that she truly is one of the best interviewers ever. Her interviewing skills are extraordinary.

Off the top, she was able to create an intense and compelling promo using just her questions. The line “Were you silent or silenced?” will be quoted for years. It’s the way she says ‘hold up’, “what” and blinks at the camera that makes you feel like something crazy is about to happen.

A lot of promos give away those big moments, this promo was nothing compared to the actual interview.

What we learned was that the interview took place over two days, a nearly four-hour sit-down interview with Meghan and Harry and then a walk-and-talk tour of Archie’s Chick-Inn. They originally scheduled a 90-minute broadcast (so an hour of content and 30 minutes of ads), but ended up pushing it to a two-hour broadcast with additional footage on CBS This Morning with Oprah’s best friend Gayle King (famous in her own right for fantastic interviews).

How they edited that down I don’t know, but it’s why they get the big bucks.

I’m glad they didn’t edit out The Crown chat.

The way Oprah related a real-life situation Meghan had experienced to The Crown – a fictional show we had all watched earlier in the year – was masterful. She knew that most Americans don’t really pay attention to Royal news, but that most have seen the TV Show and was able to use the empathy that the show had created and give that to Meghan and Harry. Brillant.

I agree with what this BBC article said about Oprah’s ability to circle back and get clarity: “Oprah’s strategy found a balance, friendly but laser-focused on getting answers. Whether or not you know the interviewees personally, it’s the follow-up questions that separate good interviews from the great, and she gently but firmly pressed for facts when the couple were vague. When Prince Harry said “lack of support” led to their leaving the country, she said, “I want clarity. Was the move about getting away from the UK press? … Or was the move because you weren’t getting enough support from The Firm?””.

I could go on about Oprah’s talent in TV making forever – but I’m actually going to hand it over to Duana and Lainey because those two women know what they are talking about. Listen – it’s a good episode and if you get into it – I’d highly recommend their Prince Andrew one too.

This was television history — a TV event like no other.

There is a ridiculous amount of press about this interview. It feels like it’s the only thing people are talking about and from a TV business point of view — Oprah did her job and it was well worth the $7 million that CBS paid her to air it.

On the evening it was released, 17 million people watched this on CBS. That does not include streaming it later – that is 17 million people watching it live. That’s huge. For context, last week’s big TV event, The Golden Globe’s, only had 6.9 million viewers.

According to Variety, “With the exception of the 20.4 million who saw the post-Super Bowl debut of Queen Latifah’s The Equalizer, Meghan and Harry has been awarded the largest non-sports audience of the 2020-2021 TV season so far.”

ITV aired the interview on the day after CBS, on Monday night in the UK and according to The Hollywood Reporter, “The show attracted a 11.4 million, capturing 54.4 percent of viewers, adding that it was a much younger profile than normal and a 72 percent share for adults 25-34.”

In Canada, the interview aired on Global and “the two-hour special drew an average minute audience of 2.8 million viewers according to Live+ same day data from Numeris. This makes it, according to the network, the No. 1 entertainment program since the start of the year in Canada.”

For context, this is not a big event for Canada. The Stronger Together, Tous Ensemble covid special drew in over 11.5 million viewers, and on any given week, Canada’s top network show, The Good Doctor, gets around 2.1-2.2 million viewers.

I really want someone to write a thesis on why Canadians didn’t get into as much as the Americans or Brits – in some ways we are the perfect overlap market for this special. So I’m honestly surprised the ratings are low here. I’d be very interested in seeing detailed ratings (think age groups/gender breakdowns etc).

Regardless, the American and British media have been devouring this story and we know someone somewhere will make a movie one day either about the interview (like Frost, Nixon) or will use the stuff from this interview in a Movie (like The Crown). Either way – I’m super curious how this will impact the way we watch TV going forward.

Will it be the return of the interview? Will Oprah do more Prime Time Specials? I have so many questions.

I think Oprah will do more interviews – and she can sell them for a higher price after this if she wants to. This reminded executives that she is worth the investment.

Meanwhile, the impact of this interview had major repercussions for another media personality — Piers Morgan. I think his time was coming to an end and this finally toppled him. Will people hire him after this? Maybe Fox. But this ended his career in legitimate media.

One last thing. As a network show, there were obviously commercials and I’m very curious as to how those ads got sold. Did anyone else notice how many CAMH commercials there were? With the content of the interview, I wonder how much of that was coordinated or written into the contract. I’m extremely curious.

Tell me all your thoughts! I feel like I could have kept going for EVER but I had to stop this blog somewhere. Get in touch if you want to keep talking about this 🙂

2 thoughts on “Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Oprah just made television history”

  1. I saw a clip of this interview this morning; I’m waiting until I have a large piece of time to myself to watch the whole thing. The fact that Prince Harry can say “hey this isn’t right” when it came to Meghan speaks volumes. And I’m sitting here wondering why my husband can’t do the same to his parents, smh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t get to see the interview but some coworkers were talking about it earlier this week. I will have to see if it is available on YouTube. I like both Harry and Meghan and the other royals as well. Hope things will go more smoothly for all in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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