A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Pop Life Chronicles newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here. Tell us what you’d like to see more of in the newsletter at email@example.com.
(CNN)Americans may have earned independence from the Brits in 1776, but some things we can’t let go of.
One being our fascination with the British royal family.
“The Crown” may be a fictionalized telling of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne and the monarch’s family, but for those of us who are total Anglophiles (raises hand) it’s fun to try and figure out which story lines in the series are closest to reality.
Season four centers on two relationships: Prince Charles’ tumultuous marriage to Lady Diana Spencer and the dynamics — marked by respect mixed with tension — between Queen Elizabeth and the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
Olivia Colman reprises her role as Elizabeth II, and Josh O’Connor is back as her son Charles, Prince of Wales. Newcomer Emma Corrin joins the cast as Princess Diana, and Gillian Anderson plays Thatcher.
In their performances, Corrin and Anderson are each a force to reckon with. (If Anderson isn’t nominated for her deliberate portrayal of Thatcher, there is no justice.)
Beyond the pomp and pageantry of “The Crown” are fallible characters whose lives hold some valuable lessons.
1. People are complex creatures: I definitely have my feelings about who comes off as a villain this season (looking at you, Prince Charles). People and their motivations, however, can be complicated.
And while Princess Diana’s story line is a bit more forgiving, we know that in reality she was also unfaithful in their marriage and not without some responsibility for their strife.
2. Your history can influence your future: Viewers get a better sense this season of the royal children having some … issues. The earlier seasons make it clear, though, that their elders had their own problems. Love, devotion and a desire for affection prove elusive and the source of most of the Windsor family’s troubles in “The Crown.”
Season two has a particularly strong episode about the trauma Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, suffered as a youth, including his pregnant sister and her family perishing in a plane crash in the 1930s.
3. Speaking of history, we need to learn from it: You cannot tell the story of this family and not include how it all began.
Queen Elizabeth II became a monarch because her uncle David, known to the public as King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne for the woman he loved, American Wallis Warfield Simpson. Simpson, who had divorced her first husband, also pursued a divorce from her second husband to be with Elizabeth’s uncle.
That forced Elizabeth’s father into becoming King George VI, the stress of which, according to the series, led to an early death, thereby making her queen.
Loving a person deemed “unacceptable” is a reoccurring theme.
The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, falls for an older man, Peter Townsend, who is divorced. Prince Charles may have married Diana, but his true love was Camilla Parker Bowles (née Shand), who he did eventually wed.
4. You have to play the cards you are dealt: One of the show’s earlier themes was that Princess Margaret would have much rather have been Queen and seemed better suited for it than her older sister, Elizabeth. Margaret had been played the first two seasons by Vanessa Kirby before Helena Bonham Carter took over the role she smashingly makes her own.
But as outgoing and spontaneous as Princess Margaret is portrayed, we learn that while her sister may be more reserved and levelheaded, she actually is better suited for the monarchy for just those reasons.
The ability to tell a good joke and charm heads of state may be good for headlines, but there is much more to ruling as a constitutional monarch than those attributes.
5. Duty is serious business: One of the reasons Queen Elizabeth has successfully reigned since 1952 is because she has never, ever shirked her duty.
While “The Crown’s” creator, Peter Morgan, has defended taking some liberties with the writing, it’s not hard to imagine that the series taps — even just a little bit — into the real-life drama of this famous family.
How majestic is that?
For your weekend
Three things to watch:
‘Diana: In Her Own Words’
If you need more after watching “The Crown,” Netflix also has a few other royal family offerings.
“Diana: In Her Own Words” is one of the better ones, offering audio of the former People’s Princess sharing her own story.
The personal recordings, along with archival footage, traces her life from childhood until the fateful car crash that took her life in Paris in 1997.
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion’
First things first: Rest in peace, Uncle Phil.
The loss of James Avery, who played the character Philip Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” is felt during the cast’s reunion special, filmed in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary.
Will Smith and his co-stars remember Avery (who died of complications from open-heart surgery in 2013) and even heal some old wounds that happened behind the scenes of this beloved ’90s series.
The reunion special is currently streaming on HBO Max, which like CNN is part of WarnerMedia.
Attention, Marvel fans!
“Marvel’s 616” is the documentary series you have been wanting.
It “explores Marvel’s rich legacy of pioneering characters, creators and storytelling to reflect the world outside your window” via multiple documentaries. And rich it is, given the impact the Marvel legacy has had on the entertainment industry.
“Marvel’s 616” starts streaming on Disney+ Friday.
Two things to listen to:
Long live love for the King.
Elvis Presley’s 1970 sessions in Nashville have been gathered together for a four-disc set titled “From Elvis in Nashville.”
It’s the first time the sessions, mostly recorded over five days in June of that year, have been assembled, along with a 32-page booklet.
The set releases on Friday. Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42 from heart failure, believed to have been linked to his use of prescription medication.
This rock guitar virtuoso is another artist who left us too soon.
Hendrix died of asphyxia after becoming intoxicated with barbiturates in 1970.
His music lives on. thanks to Legacy Recordings releasing the album “Live in Maui” along with the new feature-length documentary “Music, Money, Madness … Jimi Hendrix in Maui” on Friday.
One thing to talk about:
Reality television is trying to become more diverse.
The new Bachelorette is Tayshia Adams, only the second woman of color selected to star in the 17-year history of the franchise. Bachelor Nation has been advocating for an African American “Bachelor” for years.
CBS recently announced that beginning next year, its reality shows including “Big Brother” and “Survivor” will aim at having at least 50% of the cast be Black, Indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC.
As forward-thinking as that may sound, the true need for diversity is behind the scenes.
Having diverse faces on the screens of unscripted shows is great, but it’s even more important that creative leaders and industry decision-makers also look like the audiences they are seeking to entertain.
That is the only way to ensure that there is true inclusion in Hollywood.
Something to sip on
Dolly Parton is a national treasure.
Not only is she a musical legend, but we have her to thank in part for the development of one of the Covid-19 vaccines.
So when she speaks, we should all listen.
The icon wants us all to get into the holiday spirit by exemplifying the peace and goodwill that marks the season.
“This is the Christmas season coming up,” Parton said. “But we need to carry that Christmas spirit of peace on Earth, and loving one another. We need to carry that into the new year. And Lord knows, I hope next year is better than this one.”
With the pandemic raging and the divisiveness of politics damaging even the closest of relationships, it would be great if we all could take Parton’s words to heart.
I can think of no greater gift this year, other than the end to this deadly pandemic.
Pop back here next Thursday for all the latest entertainment happenings that matter.