NBC Movie Chronicles Mess Of A Royal Marriage
"Fergie & Andrew": Doomed Behind Palace Doors
September 25, 1992|By JAMES ENDRST; Courant Television Columnist
Poor Sarah Ferguson.
She really made a mess of it, didn't she? As far as the British people are concerned, says Bob Houston, editor and publisher of Royalty magazine, "She's dead." There are those who say that although Fergie hastened her demise by breaking numerous rules of royal protocol, she really never had a chance, ground up by a group of palace powerbrokers known as "the Queen Machine." That's the way the royal soap opera -- which Houston likens to "Dynasty with crowns" -- plays out in NBC's "Fergie & Andrew: Behind the Palace Doors." Houston, who served as consultant on the made-for-TV movie, scheduled for Monday night at 9 (locally on WVIT, Channel 30), certainly sees it that way. "You had the initial period where she was a breath of fresh air blowing all the cobwebs away," says Houston from his office in London, "and then suddenly everything was against her." The crowning blow came this summer when photos that showed Fergie cavorting topless with a Texas millionaire hit the tabloids.
Sam Miller and Pippa Henchley, two British actors virtually unknown in this country, play the Duke and Duchess of York in NBC's behind-the-scenes look at this royal mess of a marriage. (The film was finished before the photos turned up.) "Fergie & Andrew," which will not be shown in England, is just one of several malice-in-the-palace movies headed for the small screen this season. Waiting in the wings at NBC is a four-hour miniseries based on Andrew Morton's bubble-bursting bio "Diana: Her True Story." (Morton was also a consultant on "Fergie & Andrew.") CBS has the three-hour "The Women of Windsor" scheduled for Nov. 1. And later this season ABC has a real-life blueblood, former "Dynasty" star Catherine Oxenberg (who launched her career with the 1983 TV film "The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana") back as Diana in "Charles and Diana: A Palace Divided." (Roger Rees of "Cheers" fame plays Charles.) Houston, who founded Royalty 11 years ago, when Charles and Diana were married and the world went gaga, says, "The media and the royal family boil down to two periods. There is BD and AD -- before Diana and after Diana. If you came here and went through all the archives of all the tabloids in the '70s, you'd hardly find a royal story in them." But for the last six months, he says, Fleet Street tabloids have been involved in a circulation-driven feeding frenzy, "all based on very little to chew on, actually." Royalty magazine, a monthly that Houston calls "the Rolling Stone of the Royals," has a tidier approach, although its editor insists it's no fanzine. "There's a great argument here raging about privacy," he says, adding that his magazine would never, for example, publish topless shots of Fergie."Couldn't afford them, for one thing," he says, joking. But he also says you have to go back to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII, who gave up the crown for the love of Wallis Simpson, to match the shock the Fergie pictures had on royal loyalists. "There's very heavy negotiations going on about the separation, custody of children, etc.," says Houston, "and what the topless pictures did was to destroy whatever hand Sarah thought she might have had."
Much of the background in NBC's "Fergie & Andrew" is straight out of Royalty magazine's quarterly "Collectors Edition," titled "Crown in Crisis." And, echoing the movie's theme, Houston explains, "There was a faction within the queen machine who never thought Fergie was the right stuff. So the idea was give her enough rope, and she'll hang herself. "She shot herself in the foot several times along the way," Houston adds, "but she should only have been allowed to shoot herself in the foot once." By comparison, Diana, who has had more than her share of embarrassing tabloid headlines (case in point, the Diana telephone tapes) hasn't suffered any real loss of popularity. "Diana's popularity was totally undimmed, and so was the queen's," Houston reports. "I wouldn't say the same of poor old Fergie." The reason, he says, is simple. Diana (Edita Brychta in the film) is the future queen, "a combination of Mother Teresa and Michelle Pfeiffer," and her children future kings. "Fergie and Andrew in that respect are bit players," says Houston. Surprisingly, the Scottish-born editor -- perhaps a bit of a palace loyalist -- thinks a year from now people will look back on all the scandals and wonder what all the fuss was about. "I think the worst is over, and the worst was never as bad as people thought it was," he says, adding that the scandals have in fact spurred a necessary discussion on many issues concerning Buckingham Palace, including whether the queen should pay taxes. The kingdom, the monarchs will survive, says Houston. Charles and Diana will go on leading separate lives together. Fergie and Andrew are another story -- one without a fairy tale ending. "I don't think there is a future for Andrew and Sarah as a couple at all," Houston says. "Everything was killed stone dead by those pictures." But, he adds -- as if anyone might have doubts -- "she won't be dead as far as the tabloids are concerned."
"Fergie & Andrew: Behind the Palace Doors" will be broadcast on NBC Monday night at 9, locally on WVIT, Channel 30
Fergie & Andrew: Behind the Palace Doors (1992) TV Movie
Cast: Edita Brychta, Pippa Hinchley, Sam Miller, Patrick Allen