Doug Coutts’ Streaming Service: Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute



BBC iPlayer


By Doug Coutts

At first read it sounds a bit dull – someone’s dug up their old home movies and is putting them on for the family to watch, with room up the back for some hangers-on. And you have to bring your own popcorn.

But Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute is anything but dull. For a start, it’s all never-seen-before footage which means it comes as a complete surprise to the assembled Royals, some of whom have to be carefully assembled themselves these days as they’re getting a bit long in the tooth.

For us, the hangers-on stuck in the cheap seats, it gets even better as most of the footage has been shot by a few of the older Royals. The Queen and Prince Philip never went anywhere, it seems, without a brace of cinecameras. (Cinecamera is the term used by HM so it’s legit.)

Amongst the invited guests – the noble ones who get to sit down the front but in carefully chosen small groups of one or two – are Princes Harry and William, Princess Anne, Her Majesty and Princes Charles, Lady Sarah Chatto (Princess Anne’s daughter), the Duke of Kent, and Princess Alexandra. And what follows is simply a delight.

Basically we get to eavesdrop as they watch grainy black-and-white, then colour film of rather not ordinary people doing rather ordinary things – in palace backyards, backstage at coronations and all over the word – and reminisce, just like real people.

They are real people, of course, with a sometimes shitty job. If I were visiting three or four factory openings a week, opening village fetes on the weekends and having to put up with having John Key dunk his gingernuts in my best china once a year, I doubt if I’d be as gracious. No wonder some of them crack under the strain. Lady Sarah, daughter of the late and often tragic Princess Margaret, was able to see her mum as a child for the first time, and was obviously moved.

That the Royals felt comfortable enough to get a bit emotional from time to time is a credit to the thoughtful, unobtrusive production style. One of the three cameramen is a former local lad who started out at the Avalon studios: Vaughan Matthews did all the head-on reaction shots.

I worked with him back in those heady times when I was a floor manager and I recall we had many discussions on the making of television, usually to do with the importance of cameramen not being late back from morning tea. He has built up an impressive CV in the UK and beyond and I’m sure is always on time. That’s the sort of thing those Royals are impressed by.

There’s no local screening date for Elizabeth at 90 – A Family Tribute yet but the programme’s available on BBC iPlayer and will probably show up on YouTube any day now.

What other critics said:

A triumph from start to finish. I cannot recall ever seeing a more charming, warm and – dare I say – human portrait of the Queen than this one lovingly pieced together from the Royal family’s own private archive of film taken over the last 90 years.” — The Telegraph.

“It is a rare glimpse behind high walls, at the private life of a private family that really is nothing like anyone else’s. And yes, some of it is touching, such as the young Elizabeth, as yet unburdened by her destiny, singing happily with her younger sister.” — The Guardian.

“While no film of the Queen has ever been so crass as to provide a shocking revelation or embarrassing anecdote, this collection of her private home videos gives a charming narrative of her long and eventful life.” — The Mirror.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at:
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