Call me eclectic when it comes to storytelling. No matter the genre, if it’s done well, I’m interested. That leads me to high-quality entertainment in some unexpected places. For instance, one of my current televised pleasures can be found on a most unlikely platform for me: the Lifetime cable network. Lifetime is widely thought of as the province of that oft-screeching beast reality TV, the TV docudrama torn from tabloid headlines, and a parade of formulaic TV movies, generally exploitive or corny and aimed at a female demographic. But the hour-long comedy series American Princess, which debuted on Lifetime in early June and will run for a total of 10 weekly episodes, is none of the above.
American Princess tracks the truly funny, sometimes raunchy, and occasionally bittersweet odyssey of Amanda Klein, a young, well-to-do Jewish social butterfly from New York’s Upper East Side. Played with just the right postcollegiate intellect, snark, vulnerability, and whine by Georgia Flood, Amanda is purportedly pursuing a career as an online fashion maven/tastemaker. All of that will be rendered more superfluous than it already is, though, because she’s about to be married to a seemingly perfect guy at a dream wedding in the countryside. On the day of the nuptials, the bride-to-be accidentally discovers her groom getting premarital oral satisfaction from a random lingerie-clad woman, and that sends Amanda off the rails — or more specifically, on a tear-blurred run to anywhere else via a tricycle-rickshaw meant for the coupling ceremony.
Hearing music in the distance, Amanda leaves her wheels behind and wanders into a Renaissance fair, thinking it’s another fancy country wedding with a medieval theme. She becomes increasingly drunk on fairground libations and, to her shock, is welcomed and embraced by various actors and “Ren-nerds” working there. Determined not to accede to knee-jerk entreaties from her spoiled socialite clique and her self-centered mother to forgive her errant betrothed, Amanda decides to get a job at the fair where she might find her better self, true acceptance, and perhaps even romance. Of course, there has to be conflict, even in a place that traffics in immersive, joyful, anachronistic fantasy.
QUEEN VERSUS PRINCESS
The company is ruled by Maggie (Seana Kofoed), an aging, arrogant actress who plays Queen Elizabeth at the fair. Her astringent personality is likely a consequence of dashed dreams of stardom. In any event, Maggie immediately takes a disliking to Amanda, despite the latter’s often hapless attempts to learn fair protocol and endear herself to Her Royal Smugness. Furthermore, the road to true-ish romance in the aftermath of Amanda’s broken engagement won’t be simple in a free-spirited place like the fair, where the handsome actor (Lucas Neff) who catches her attention — and vice versa — is dallying with a lissome fellow fair performer.
Few of the American Princess cast members are that well known, but all of them are on point and deliver the show’s sharp, sometimes salty dialog with 21st century verisimilitude and 16th century propriety or low-born glee, depending on the circumstance. They seem to be having a blast, which can be downright infectious to anyone watching. Flood is particularly appealing and affection-worthy as Amanda, a role that could have been off-putting in the wrong hands. If we aren’t invested in her journey, the show might not work as well.
Created by comic actress Jamie Denbo, coproduced by Jenji Kohan (Orange Is the New Black), and graced by the wild, fearless, unflinching comedy sensibilities of writers Julia Wolov and Dana Min Goodman (Faking It, Good Vibes), American Princess has a pedigree that seems very un-Lifetime-like. As noted, narrative gold is where you find it, and this series is shaping up to be a treasure fit for royalty and commoner alike.
Major props to Netflix for saving Lucifer, the slyly witty mix of supernatural, buddy-cop, and rom-com elements that was brought back in May for a fourth series to the delight of multitudinous fans after it had been canceled by Fox. This new 10-episode run was so well received that the streaming service opted to order a fifth and final series to wrap up the escapades of the charming Devil played by suave Tom Ellis.
Netflix also leapt into action when ABC dropped Designated Survivor, offering the political thriller a third season released last month. It continues to follow the progress of Tom Kirkman, the cabinet member who becomes U.S. president when a catastrophe kills everyone ahead of him in the line of succession. Kiefer Sutherland’s Kirkman gives us a president who is diligent, humane, scholarly, and eloquent, and puts the needs of the country and all of its citizens ahead of his own. Clearly, it’s fiction, although it reminds us of a time when basic decency was expected from the nation’s chief executive.
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. Follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster.