‘The Crown’ reviews: Expensive Netflix gamble pays off with raves for Claire Foy & Matt Smith

Netflix has taken some big swings since it started venturing into original programming — from “House of Cards” to “Stranger Things” — but “The Crown” may be the biggest yet. With a budget reported at $130 million for its 10-episode first season, the historical drama about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) is an expensive gamble for the streaming service, but the reviews indicate that the risk has paid off — creatively at least. It debuted on November 4, so now Netflix will find out whether audiences are as enthusiastic as the critics are.

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As of this writing it has scored 82 on MetaCritic and 90% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes, and it appears all that money was well spent on “one of the most entertaining productions Netflix has ever streamed.” It’s “beautifully filmed” with “meticulous” costumes and “cinematic quality.” But it’s not just the production values that are receiving praise. The acting by Foy and her co-star Matt Smith as Prince Philip is “fittingly lavish,” with Foy exhibiting “a perfect balance of vulnerability and steel.” We think Foy is a likely Golden Globe nominee for Best TV Drama Actress and that the show will contend for Best TV Drama Series according to our latest racetrack odds.

The series already has a strong awards pedigree as it’s created by Peter Morgan, who has a history of mining the life of Queen Elizabeth II for awards gold. He wrote the 2006 film “The Queen,” which won a Best Actress Oscar for Helen Mirren. He and Mirren revisited the character in the 2013 play “The Audience”; it moved to Broadway in 2015 and won Mirren a Tony for Best Actress in a Play.

[WATCH] ‘The Crown’ trailer: Claire Foy and Matt Smith star as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

And Foy is already an experienced royal. She played ill-fated queen Anne Boleyn in “Wolf Hall,” earning nominations at the Critics’ Choice and BAFTA Awards. Will “The Crown” lead to an awards coronation for all involved?

Melanie McFarland (Salon): “‘The Crown’ is as superb and heavy as, well, the actual crown. While the encumbrance of rule hasn’t shortened the real Queen Elizabeth II’s life — she turned 90 this year and has ruled for longer than any monarch in British history – viewers may more keenly appreciate the fortitude it takes to hold that scepter after watching this richly wrought drama. Slowly.”

Ken Tucker (Yahoo!): “Easily one of the most entertaining productions Netflix has ever streamed, ‘The Crown’ is a royal soap opera on a grand scale. Lavishly produced by creator-writer Peter Morgan, the drama is one of Netflix’s most expensive series to date, and it features fittingly lavish performances — most prominently by Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth and Doctor Who’s Matt Smith as her husband, Philip Mountbatten.”

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Gwen Ihnat (The A.V. Club): “Given the recent crop of horrifying Windsor-based TV movies attempting to capture the romance of Wills and Kate or the tragedy of Diana, ‘The Crown’ easily rises far above, adding a cinematic quality to a complex and intricate time for an intimate family. The performers and creators are seemingly up for the task. What will unfold over the course of ‘The Crown’ is whether Elizabeth is as well.”

Gail Pennington (St. Louis Post Dispatch): “This is the story of another young queen, Elizabeth II, played with a perfect balance of vulnerability and steel by Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn in ‘Wolf Hall’) … ‘The Crown’ is as beautifully filmed as could be, with scenes in Malta and Kenya as well as Balmoral in Scotland. The costuming is meticulous, as is the choreography of everything from dressing to mealtime to a train trip.”

Predict the Golden Globe nominations now; change them till December 12

Do you think “The Crown” will be a big Golden Globe hit? Be sure to make your Golden Globe predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how this series is faring in our Golden Globe odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on December 12 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Globes taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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