At first blush, TV would seem to be a little “Borat”-ed out by now. Yet “Almost Royal” quickly establishes itself as a sprightly surprise, following a mock brother-and-sister team of snotty Brits as they travel the wilds of America, reeling in unsuspecting marks along the way. Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart play Georgie and Poppy Carlton, cheerfully fulfilling their late father’s wish to visit the U.S. and “mingle with the natives.” What ensues is fast-paced and frequently funny, a mix of deft writing and the duo’s deadpan improvisational skills.
The two previewed episodes follow the pair as they visit L.A. and Boston, during the first stop taking a Beverly Hills bike tour, while meeting in rapid-fire succession a Hollywood agent, a plastic surgeon, Fabio and the casting director of a daytime soap.
Unfortunately, Poppy, who insists she would like to be an actress, exhibits absolutely no talent (kudos to Hoggart; it’s not easy being that bad), while asking questions of the agent like, “Is it true Elton John’s gay?”
In Boston, the two attend a Tea Party meeting — which will be riotously funny to anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a full-fledged member — and attend a Revolutionary War battle reenactment, where Georgie keeps blurting out muffled curses about killing Yanks.
As noted, the idea of foreign visitors asking their U.S. hosts impertinent or insulting questions, and making the latter look gullible in the bargain, would seem to be pretty well exhausted. Yet Gamble and Hoggart manage to strike just the right tone, sounding alternately wide-eyed and priggish, without coming across as mean-spirited — which is no small feat.
Moreover, this act of across-the-Pond deception coincides with Fox’s since-defunct reality dating show “I Wanna Marry Harry,” which tapped into a similar idea but looks witless compared with this program’s understated tone.
“Almost Royal” consists of seven half-hours (opening with two back-to-back), which is probably about right in terms of Georgie and Poppy not overstaying their U.S. welcome. And while they might not really stand distantly in line for the British throne, their antics ought to win them a small but devoted following of commoners in the colonies.