Four days before the film was shown, British Prime Minister John Major announced Charles and Diana’s separation in a speech to Parliament. The news may have made the movie timely, but it didn’t help it win many viewers: “Charles and Diana” was seen in just 11.9 million households, finishing second in its time slot to CBS’s Lindsay Wagner tearjerker “A Message from Holly” and ranking 30th among the week’s 92 programs.
Perhaps by the time “Charles and Diana” aired, viewers had had their fill of the Windsors: The film was the third royal-themed TV movie to air during 1992-93 season, which was just three months old.
Then again, of the three flicks – the other two were NBC’s “Fergie and Andrew: Behind the Palace Doors” and CBS’s “The Women of Windsor” – “Charles and Diana” received the best reviews.
The New York Times’ John J. O’Connor praised the ABC movie’s lead actors, Roger Rees and Catherine Oxenberg, for delivering “solid and intelligent” performances that gave the movie “a bit more substance than most.”
The Washington Post’s Tom Shales called Rees “quite good,” commending him for infusing Charles with “anguish and loneliness.”
Shales called Oxenberg “far less compelling,” describing her acting as seemingly “motivated by the desire not to let an expression disfigure her features for too long.”
He also criticized the actress for making “something of a mini-career playing the princess,” noting she had previously portrayed Diana in “The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana,” a 1982 CBS movie.
“[O]ne can only dread the prospect of seeing her again in 10 years as ‘Princess Diana: The Girl Who Won’t Be Queen,” Shales wrote.
He wasn’t the only critic to speak too soon.
USA Today’s Matt Roush called the movie “great bad TV,” suggesting Americans should be thankful its newly elected president, Bill Clinton, hadn’t embarrassed his country the way the Windsors had theirs.
“This movie … makes you proud to be from a land where the president-elect can frequent McDonald’s and no one blinks,” Roush wrote.
If fast food had been Clinton’s only weakness!
From the Pages of TV Guide
Also airing Dec. 13, 1992:
8 PM FOX IN LIVING COLOR (CC)
Scheduled: Kelly Coffield as Madonna and Kim Wayans as Naomi Campbell in a video parody entitled “Neurotica”; a holiday visit to “The Dysfunctional Home Show.” Keenan Ivory Wayans, James Carrey, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, Alexandra Wentworth.
8:30 FOX ROC (CC)
Joey (Rocky Carroll) takes a paternal interest in a young man who admires his trumpet playing, but Roc (Charles S. Dutton) suspects the guy is just blowing smoke, and may be involved in something illegal. (Live)
10:30 FOX BEN STILLER (CC) – Comedy
Guests include David Cassidy, Mark DeCarlo (“Studs”), comedian Taylor Negron, Herve Villechaize and Gary Coleman. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea also appears.
[Now seen at this new time.]