‘The Royals’ Review: E!’s Elizabeth Hurley Drama Is a Not So Guilty Pleasure

From “One Tree Hill” creator Mark Schwahn, this scripted series is addictive, naughty and just the right amount of silly

Last Updated: March 13, 2015 @ 3:40 PM

E!’s addictively trashtastic drama will be your new guilty pleasure. Actually, maybe not so guilty…

Let’s face it: Television is brimming with great melodramas right now. There’s “Empire,” “Scandal,” “How To Get Away with Murder” to name a few. E!’s new scripted drama “The Royals” has a shot at joining this list with its heady mixture of a fictional British royal family beset by scandal, wild parties and illicit romances. I’ve only seen the first three episodes, which included drugs, secret sex, fashion shows, car wrecks and garden parties. These are not your grandma’s royals.

Show creator Mark Schwahn knows the turf of melodrama well from “One Tree Hill,” the last show he created that ran for years on The WB and CW. With “The Royals,” Schwahn gets to play faster and looser with stories which basically makes for more sex, drugs and rock and roll. But, mainly more sex. And it works.

Adding to the show’s allure, “The Royals” is smartly cast with Elizabeth Hurley believable as Queen Helena, a Royal who acts with just a touch of Cruella DeVille. Hurley is a stunner and while her wardrobe for this show isn’t the Versace safety pin dress she made famous years ago, she’s still striking and a commanding presence. Vincent Regan as King Simon seems a bit too old and staid for Helena and I’m curious to know how these two got together. I’m betting we’ll see that later this season.

It’s the younger Royals the show really has fun with and focuses on – after all, they’re the future of the monarchy. As Prince Liam, William Moseley is blond, adorable and boy band heartthrob cute. He may also be too nice to be the future King of England. He has a crush on Ophelia (Merritt Patterson), the daughter of the head of the Royals security detail. Can the prince date a commoner? Will the queen permit it? Can Ophelia, a common American gal, conduct herself properly at royal events? Young love is so complicated!

Prince Liam’s rebellious sister, Princess Eleanor, is played to the hilt by Alexandra Park, who spits out every nasty line she’s given with vigor. Princess Eleanor’s wardrobe is also something to behold: far too shiny and glittery much of the time, there’s a vaguely goth overtone to it as well. And then there’s Jasper (Tom Austen), Princess Eleanor’s wickedly sexy bodyguard who looks like he should really be on the Olympic swim team. Jasper has a hidden past of his own that’s quickly discovered by the princess, but Jasper’s no rube and he’s pretty good at putting the Princess in her place so he can keep his job and manipulate her to his own ends. Keep your eye on Jasper – trust me, this won’t be a chore.

If this little taste doesn’t sound juicy enough for you, keep in mind that Joan Collins will be dropping by as the Grand Duchess of Oxford. I cannot wait for the shade-throwing contest between Queen Helena and the Grand Duchess.

As I quickly burned through the first three episodes of “The Royals,” I’m happy to tell you it left me wanting more. The show has spot on cultural references, pop and otherwise, and it won’t make you feel nearly as dirty as watching the Kardashians. “The Royals” may be the “dramatic” – and yes, I’m using air quotes – sister to “The Soup,” which has become the funniest half-hour on E! With “The Royals,” E! has a juicy soap opera that’s addictive, naughty and just the right amount of silly. It’s escapist, but not stupid. It’s like a visit to a classier “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Do I care if they’re like the real-life Royals? Not one bit. This version of the Royal Family is far sexier and a lot more fun.

“The Royals” premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on E!.