PALM ROYALE Review: Secrets and Lies in High Society

Kristin Wiig, Ricky Martinez, Laura Dern and Allison Janney star in the comedy-drama series, premiering globally on Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
PALM ROYALE Review: Secrets and Lies in High Society

As an actor, the very handsome Ricky Martinez is a very popular singer. If only his cheekbones could emote! Surely, he'd win an Emmy.

Palm Royale
The first three episodes are begin streaming Wednesday, March 20, on Apple TV+. Subsequent episodes will debut every Wednesday. I've seen all 10 episodes.

The casting of Ricky Martinez is emblematic of the series as a whole, a wildly uneven concoction that is shot through with occasional brilliance and weighed down by comic ideas that fizzle in the long run.

Like Constellation, another Apple TV+ series that probably runs too long, Palm Royale is less binge-able than certain shows on other streaming services, and thus benefits by the weekly schedule that it will settle into after its debut burst of three episodes.

Based on Juliet McDaniel's novel Mr. and Mrs. American Pie though "loosely inspired by" is probably a better description -- the series follows Maxine Simmons (Kristin Wiig) as she endeavors to break into high society in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., in 1969.

In the initial episodes, its a challenge to get a fix on the show's tone, light as it is. Is it meant to be entirely a broad comedy about the callous insensitivity of rich people? That could get old pretty quick, and by the middle of Episode 2, I was tiring of the familiar stereotypes about the wealthy entitled class and the poor, wretched underclass that were marched out, without much merry mocking or zestful zinging.

Created by Abe Sylvia (George & Tammy, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Filthy Rich), who wrote the first two episodes, and directs others later, the show's focus gradually comes into focus. Maxine is a striver and a secret-keeper who loves her husband, airline pilot Douglas (Josh Lucas); they hope to inherit a fortune from Douglas' Aunt Norma (Carol Burnett), now incapacitated in her luxurious estate.

Before that happens, Maxine hopes to ingratiate herself with the 'ladies who lunch,' principally the high-minded Evelyn (Allison Janney), but also Dinah (Leslie Bibb), who has a few secrets of her own. The ladies rule a private club in Palm Beach, where Robert (Ricky Martinez) works dutifully as a bartender; naturally, he has secrets of his own, too.

The wild card is Linda (Laura Dern), who initially appears only tangentially related to high society. Principally, she is occupied with the Civil Rights Movement; even so, she has ... yes, more secrets.

Secrets are, indeed, the password that defines the series. It's 1969, and so the mores of that era are opening up in certain ways, while remaining firmly bound in other ways. Like a plywood wall, things can be opened up by a variety of means. The characters in the series each choose their own method of dismantling the barriers that constrict them. For some, it's little by little; for others, it's akin to a bulldozer.

Similar to the series as a whole, the characters are revealed slowly, giving up their secrets one by one. The performances reflect that; though they initially appear a bit shallow (or broad), give them time and their nuances increasingly impress with their nuanced interpretation.

In the case of Ricky Martinez, he's not yet up to the likes of Kristin Wiig or Allison Janney. Or Laura Dern, especially in a later episode that has a scene that ranks among my favorite scenes of all time.

Give him time, though. Just give him time and seasoning, which reflects my feelings about the show in general.

Palm Royale

  • Abe Sylvia
  • Allison Janney
  • Kristen Wiig
  • Leslie Bibb
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Allison JanneyApple TV+Kristin WiigLaura DernRicky MartinezAbe SylviaKristen WiigLeslie BibbDrama

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