Privy Councilors is a fictional series created for the Farnsworth by Empire Media in 2021. The comedy show depicts the bungling efforts of the three main advisors to Empress Eleanor the Thirty-First to manage the Empire of Australia in her twilight years as she is stricken with an illness that keeps her glued to the privy. The show has run for two years, and has been renewed by Empire Media for two more years.
The premise of the show is that Empress Eleanor has been overtaken with ailments in her old age and she replaces her three lead advisors, all capable women, with three little-known men of varying, lesser capabilities who every episode almost lead the Empire into disaster but for the behind-the-scenes actions of the Secretary.
The three main characters of Privy Councilors are the elder Solomon, played by Winston Peters, the middle-aged David, played by Christopher Luxon, and the younger Matthew played by Matthew Seymour. The cast is rounded out by Emily Watson as the unsung Secretary, who manages to keep things moving forward despite the slapstick antics of the three men. Allison Broadmeadow plays the deep and haughty-sounding voice of Eleanor the Thirty-First—whom we never see.
Denigration of the Monarchy
When the show debuted in 2021, it was met with protests amongst some members of the public who felt that the show was too denigrating to the memory of Empress Eleanor the Thirty-First. This protest reflected the broader split within the Empire of Aotearoa since the ascension of Eleanor the Thirty-Third whose policies of liberalization have been met with resistance in some quarters of the Empire.
That sort of slander of the monarchy would never have been permitted before…….A widely circulated anonymous quote from the Empire’s interweb.
The depiction of Eleanor the Thirty-First as an invalid, incapable of ruling her Empire was also a point of criticism for many. The name “Privy Councilors” drew scorn from some corners, a reference to Eleanor’s bowel issues which kept her glued to the privy, that belittled and mortshamed her for a medical condition.
The choice of casting added to the controversy as the frolicking Winston Peters was cast in one of the lead roles.
People objected to three silly old queers being cast in important roles in government, saying it could never happen in real life and that this is an affront to our government. It’s hard to know where to begin with that, honestly, as it’s well, fiction, and a comedy show to boot. It’s also the sort of discrimination against queers that I’m glad to say has largely gone the way of the dodo with this latest Empress.Winston Peters quoted in the Daily Times of New Bordeaux on January 3rd, 2022
Some individuals in the audience voiced their concerns about the portrayal of the three men as unintelligent, arguing that such a depiction perpetuates damaging gender stereotypes. These critics argued that it reinforced the notion that men are incapable individuals, thereby undermining gender equality and contributing to a cultural climate that belittles them.
By depicting the trio as idiots, some argued, the creators of the content unintentionally subscribed to outdated stereotypes that diminish the abilities and intelligence of men. Opponents of this portrayal stressed the importance of challenging these stereotypes and portraying both men and women in diverse, complex, and empowering ways that reflect the reality of their capabilities.
Awards for Privy Councilors
The series garnered six nominations and two wins at the 2021 Culture Awards, including a Notable Comedy Actor nod for Emily Watson and Notable Comedy Series for the show overall.
Privy Councilors received an additional six nominations at the 2022 Culture Awards and three wins, including Notable Comedy, Notable Actor for Emily Watson and Notable Actor for Winston Peters. The 2022 wins were largely deemed to have been for one extraordinary episode, “Meeting the French Ambassador”.