New drama series The Crown, made for US$122 million, a 'cinematic' experience

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Premiere of Netflix drama The Crown takes place in London with stars, royal guards and a corgi all in attendance.
New Netflix British period series, The Crown, is said to be the most expensive TV series made. PHOTO: NETFLIX

The Crown, the new Netflix British period series which has been said to be the most expensive TV series made, is not the new Downton Abbey.

Peter Morgan, creator of The Crown, brushes off many media outlets' comparison of his show with Julian Fellowes' hit series set in the early 20th century, which ran from 2010 to 2015.

The Oscar-nominated writer of The Queen (2006) and Frost/Nixon (2008) says that he "never gave Downton even a thought" while working on his show. "I have a lot of respect for what Julian Fellowes did and what Downton Abbey became. It was a colossal success and we should be flattered to be considered in the same breadth. But I think we all thought we were making something quite different.

"This one is about the two most iconic houses in Britain - Buckingham Palace and Downing Street," Morgan, 53, says at a press conference in London on Tuesday afternoon (Nov 1).

(From left) Matt Smith, Dame Eileen Atkins, Claire Foy, Peter Morgan and Stephen Daldry pose as they arrive for the world premiere of The Crown at Leicester Square in London on Nov 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Actor Jared Harris, 55, who plays King George VI in the show, says at the same event: "Downton Abbey was concerned about class. The Crown is concerned about power."

The 10-parter, set to premiere on streaming service Netflix on Friday (Nov 4), tells the story behind the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy), displaying all of her anxiousness at being suddenly made queen at the age of 25 after her father King George VI died of lung cancer.

The drama, which is already in production for Season 2, also looks at the regular meetings that the Queen has with then-prime minister Winston Churchill (played by John Lithgow).

Whether or not The Crown ends up enjoying the same success as Downton Abbey remains to be seen. But it has already generated plenty of buzz because of the lavish production, which makes use of detailed sets and fancy jewellery and costumes.

Much has been said about the show's budget, with many news outlets headlining this as the "most expensive TV series ever made", costing a rumoured US$122 million for the first 10-episode season alone.

In fact, that figure is said to cover about two seasons, working out to about US$11 million an episode. In comparison, each episode of HBO's Game Of Thrones reportedly cost about US$6 to US$10 million to make.

The Crown's budget elevates it from a regular TV show into a blockbuster movie-like experience, says Stephen Daldry, 56, who is producer and director of the series.

Daldry - a three-time Oscar-nominated director for Billy Elliot (2000), The Hours (2002) and The Reader (2008) - says: "When you have a generous budget like this, it really gives you scale. And our scale is on a cinematic level."

Early reviews for the show have certainly been glowing, with many heaping praise on not just the fine performances, but also how gorgeous and rich in detail it is.

Vanity Fair wrote that the show is "expensive... and worth it", while The Telegraph calls it an "astonishing royal gamble" for Netflix that pays off.

Now that the show is airing soon, how does lead actress Foy feel about the possibility that Queen herself would tune into the show?

The 32-year-old, who is known for her performances in other period dramas such as Wolf Hall (2015) and Upstairs Downstairs (2010), says with a grin: "I'd love to imagine she would. I would love nothing more than imagining her sitting down and watching it because that would just be extraordinary."

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The Crown Season 1 premieres on Netflix on Friday (Nov 4).

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