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Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Royalty A-Z wins US viewers
The Earl and Countess of Wessex
The Wessexes recently moved out of TV production

A cable TV station in America says its much-hyped series about the British royal family is helping it achieve some of its best ever ratings.

Royalty A-Z, which is airing on the E! Entertainment channel, is billed as an 11-part original series which takes viewers inside the world of the royal family - everything from the "royal scandals," the "fairytale weddings" and "nightmare break-ups" to the "secrets of the palace."

The Earl of Wessex is co-executive producer of the series, which was made by Prince Edward's company, Ardent Productions in partnership with E!

During the filming, Prince Charles was reported to be "incandescent with rage" after a camera crew tried to film Prince William at university.

Princess Diana with Martin Bashir
The series includes the Princess Diana's interview with Martin Bashir
According to E!, the series, which has aired in prime time every evening since last Sunday, has performed better than its usual selection of celebrity based programmes.

"It's doing very well, we're very pleased," says Mark Sonnenberg, the channel's Executive Vice President of Entertainment. "We're just cookin' right now."

Approximately 3-4 million Americas have tuned in at some point during the week, although the E! schedule includes several repeat screenings.


As the show airs on cable, it would not be expected to compete for a place in America's television top ten, which is dominated by the major networks, NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX.

E! is also airing former Playboy model, Anna Nicole Smith's new reality show, which has been widely panned by critics.

It managed to achieve an audience three times the size of Royalty A-Z on its first night.

"They're different shows," Mr Sonnenberg is quick to point out.

To seasoned royal observers, or indeed anyone from Britain, Royalty A-Z dishes up little that can be described as original. It amounts to a collection of re-hashed interviews punctuated by pithy comments from familiar royal pundits.

However, according to E!, much of the footage, like Martin Bashir's revealing interview with Princess Diana from Panorama, is fresh to the US audience.

Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith beat Royalty A-Z in the ratings
Indeed, some American viewers are being educated by the series.

"I didn't know Prince Edward was married," says Bryan Darling, an independent filmmaker from Sacramento. "I was more interested in Sophie than Queen Victoria," he adds. "It's interesting to see how someone is thrown into royal life."

The first episode, Public Lives, Public Scandal, featured an interview with Prince Edward. However, E! acknowledges that the footage was from a pre-wedding chat the prince had with Sue Barker.


E! has been working on the series for several years. Hollywood celebrities have been canvassed, at red carpet events, for their tales of intimate royal encounters.

Kelly Osbourne said she was saddened by the amount of security Princess Diana needed.

"I've sat on a plane with Princess Diana when she was alive," she explains.

"People actually bought tickets to follow her and take pictures of her on her vacation. It was like, bothering, almost."

Tony Bennett says Diana was a "wonderful lady" whom the public respected for her humanitarian work.

Geri Halliwell reckons Princess Charles is a "gorgeous man."

"He handles himself with great dignity," adds Sting.

"The ultimate celebrities are the royal family," says Mr Sonnenberg. "They're the celebrities that Hollywood celebrities still get gushy about and don't know how to act in front of - kind of the way fans do to them."

"Americans are fascinated by the pomp and circumstance," insists viewer, Bryan Darling.

"Americans are interested in rich people because we're all fascinated by what we don't have."

See also:

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