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Deber y tener

November 1, 2010 – 11:21 am

OK, I admit it. I love TV movies about famous people. Even better if they’re royalty or aristos, and we get a glimpse inside their everyday lives – the king eating his breakfast in a grey chandal (tracksuit), Prince Felipe glued to the telly. The mini-series about the Duquesa de Alba, which aired earlier this year, was marvellous, mainly because it was filmed in her actual palace in Madrid. We got to see her kids playing happily on the floor with their trains, just like ours. OK, so our entire house would fit into the room where they were playing, but happy kids are happy kids. The tragic twist in this tale is that her husband died, and her next partner was an unlikely, and unpopular, choice. That series is to be continued – they’re starting the filming of the next part, about her second marriage, next week. The first part was watched by four million, 22% of the viewing public. I’ll be glued to the sofa for the next installment, partly because I’ve interviewed the Duquesa and thought she was pretty damn cool for an octogenarian (apart from her political views).

More recently, there was the mini-series about Alfonso de Borbon, el principe maldito, who was married to Franco’s granddaughter Carmen, still a regular fixture in the prensa rosa. His son was killed in a car crash at the age of 12, while Alfonso himself died in a skiing accident five years later. Again, we got to see El Caudillo’s obsession with healthy eating, especially yoghurts, and the bell under his desk which he pressed when a meeting was over and he wanted to get rid of his guest.

And so to the latest such TV-soap delight – Felipe y Letizia, Deber y Tener. I was clearly never going to miss this televisual feast, this bar of chocolate for the sentiments, but even my husband succumbed, and he’s no royalist. Watching the lovesick puppy-prince (who came across as a spoilt man who was used to getting his own way) threatening the ambitious journalist (warmer and prettier than in real life) that he was going to stop her from going to cover the Iraq War (she made it clear that wasn’t acceptable – “If you do that, you’ll never see me again”), turning up unannounced at her door when she was having a girlfriends’ get-together, and most importantly, sticking to his guns about marrying her. His parents were not keen – she was a divorced TV journalist, “she’s not from our world”, said Queen Sofia – and he had to fight tooth and nail to convince them that she was the right woman for the job, so to speak.

It’s a good story, and it was well told, apart from the irritating, schmaltzy plinky plink music, straight out of a BOATS (based on a true story) TV movie. Although for me, the King was not convincing – OK, so I don’t know him personally, but I find it hard to believe that he walks with that bouncing, leaning-forward, stiff-necked mafioso gait which the actor playing the part afforded him. He looked like a caricature. The Queen, on the other hand, was the very epitome of a scheming, manipulative, adoring mother, who wanted the best for her son. It was a clash of generations – Juan Carlos at one point tells his wife something along the lines of, “Don’t try to interfere in my work – do what you’re good at – helping with the grandchildren.” He also flirts with all the female staff. Machista sovereign, anyone?

It takes some convincing on Felipe’s part to persuade the glamorous, determined news reporter that he’s the man for her. As she tells him, “You’re brought up to give orders. I’m not brought up to obey them.” She has to change overnight when, after the press call to announce their official engagement, at which Letizia has talked to her suddenly-ex-colleagues openly about her feelings, her future mother-in-law offers her some friendly advice: “The Queen has no voice – she lets the King speak for her.” Ouch. Letizia doesn’t react; I guess by that point, she’s so relieved to have been accepted into the Spanish Firm that she’s just not bovvered any more. She’s reached the stage where she’s realised that in order to have her prince, she must lose her profession, her individuality, her independence and her identity. If you want to live in a palace and have princesses for daughters, that’s the price you have to pay.

It’s a vicarious pleasure, watching the lives of the rich, famous, titled. Like Sexy Money crossed with Hello. I, personally, can’t get enough of it. Plus, it makes me glad I’m not one of them. (Yes, really.)

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