‘Palm Royale’ series review: Kristen Wiig’s talents do not make up for the lacklustre writing in Apple comedy

Scene from ‘Palm Royale’

AppleTV+’s series Palm Royale immerses viewers in the exaggerated world of 1969’s elite Floridian lifestyles, where every extravagant set—from the exclusive country club to sprawling beach houses and grand ballrooms—reflects the status-driven society of the era. The storyline grips the privileged enclave of socialite women whose prestige is seemingly calculated by their newspaper features in the ‘Shiny Sheet.’ Yet, the lavishness of Palm Royale overextends to its narrative, resulting in a disorienting and convoluted viewer experience.

Borrowing from the novel Mr. & Mrs. American Pie, Abe Sylvia steers the narrative into the iconic cattiness of the social elites of Palm Beach, focusing on the fictional ‘Palm Royale’ club. Major characters such as Evelyn Rollins (Allison Janney), Dinah Donahue (Leslie Bibbs), and Mary Davidsoul (Julia Duffy) skilfully maneuver through endless social engagements and strategic alliances to secure the coveted title of ‘Queen of the Season.’ 

The protagonist, Maxine Simmons (Kristen Wiig), effortlessly breaches the club’s barriers, but finds penetrating the inner circle more challenging, resorting to manipulative tactics. Throughout the series’ 10 episodes, Maxine ambitiously schemes to seize both the fortune and societal throne from her husband’s Aunt Norma Dellacorte (Carol Burnett).

Palm Royale (English)

Creator: Abe Sylvia 

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Ricky Martin, Josh Lucas, Leslie Bibb, Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Carol Burnett, Amber Chardae Robinson

Episodes: 10 

Runtime: 45-50 minutes

Storyline: In 1969’s Florida, a former beauty queen fights to establish her reputation amongst Palm Beach’s high society.

The success of the show relies heavily on the brilliance of its cast. Carol Burnett delights audiences without uttering a word, and Allison Janney embodies her ambitious character with finesse. Wiig, reprising her versatility from her ‘SNL’ days, shines as Maxine, endearing viewers with her portrayal of a cunning yet emotionally guarded protagonist. Ricky Martin and Laura Dern contribute admirably in their respective roles as Robert, a waiter, and Linda, an activist, who observe the affluent world from the periphery with no interest in assimilation. 

Even with a stand-out ensemble, the disjointed script leaves them stranded, attempting to blend elements of both character-centric storytelling and an intricate plot. Unfortunately, neither aspect manages to fully engage the viewer, leading to a series that is ambiguous in its aim and struggles to maintain viewer interest.

The creative challenge for Palm Royale stems from its adaptation process, which appears overwhelmed by an abundance of source material. The resulting mosaic of genres—from black comedy to dreamlike drama to the archetypal underdog tale—leaves audiences bemused. Despite the cast’s valiant efforts to navigate the erratic shifts, their performances only partly salvage the series.

Palm Royale is accessible on AppleTV+, releasing new episodes every Wednesday.

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