It’s been a big weekend for Vladimir Putin as Russia came perilously close to a civil war, thus forcing the 70-year-old dictator to take a break from his usual weekend.
(Re-upping his Tik Tok influencer-on-the-make levels of filler, slowly garrotting kittens; finishing the second season of White Lotus.)
But I wonder, did he find the time to have a chuckle over the news that Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex has wanted to nab him as a podcast guest to discuss his childhood?
Let’s just sit with the image for a moment: The self-regarding princeling, a man with all the intellectual gravitas of a Sao, quizzing a warmongering madman who likes having opponents pushed out of windows about his formative years. (‘Tell me Vlad, did not getting that puppy you wanted at age six, how did that contribute to your journey to homicidal dictator?’)
This revelation and a slew of other embarrassing ones about Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’s US career have come out over the last 48-hours. While tanks rolled through the streets of Moscow, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg were busy casting the royal exiles as ‘flops’ who could be essentially facing unemployment by 2025.
The first hit came when Bloomberg’s Soundbite newsletter did a spot of digging and revealed, for the first time, the podcast ideas that the Duke of Downward Dog had pitched to Spotify. (The streamer and the Sussexes parted ways earlier this month.)
One podcast would see the 38-year-old interview a very unusual roster of guests “about their early formative years.”
Vlad the Impaler wasn’t the only world leader that Harry wanted for this show. He also reportedly sought to speak to fake tanned faker Donald Trump and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, two people who have done more to undermine democracy than Stalin, Mao Zedong and ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon combined.
For the love of God, why?
I have so many questions I’m not sure where to start.
Why would Harry have any interest in trying to humanise a monster and a former reality star, men who have imperilled the free world for the sake of their swollen egos?
And why would he think he could actually get these people to agree to this? Does the duke really have no conception that having bailed on Monarchy Inc. to feed his hummingbirds and marinate in fraternal resentment in California, he does not have the same pulling power as someone working down the hall from an anointed sovereign?
Did he really believe that Vlad might fancy taking a break from waging a brutal war on Ukrainians for a mug of camomile tea so he could recount to Listening Face Harry about how his father had not hugged him enough? That his mother’s lack of validation for his kindergarten finger painting is why he annexed Crimea?
I can see it now: Harry could have explained how he does not feel comfortable going home to the UK because his family won’t hear his truth; Vlad could talk about how he does not feel comfortable leaving Mother Russia due the International Criminal Court having issued an arrest warrant for him for war crimes.
That Bloomberg story also reported that Harry had the idea to do another series tackling “major societal conversations episode by episode, ranging from climate change to religion. For the latter, Harry hoped to have Pope Francis on as a guest.”
(I’ll just pause here to point out that someone should teach Harry how to Google – neither Vlad nor Il Papa generally ever give interviews in English.)
Then hot on Bloomberg’s heels came the Wall Street Journal with a report that characterised Harry and Meghan’s Hollywood careers as “looking like a flop” and pointing out that they “have notched more cancellations and rejections than produced shows.”
The Sussexes’ “graveyard of video projects” is such that “Netflix is unlikely to renew the couple’s deal, which runs through 2025.”
According to the esteemed business paper, Netflix executives had “groused about Archewell’s output” while Spotify had ended up “frustrated” with how long it took the duchess to come up with an idea for a podcast.
The Sussexes’ Archewell production company, according to the report, “often lacks direction”‘ while the duo “at times seem surprised by the work required to finish entertainment projects. Most potential initiatives, they said, follow a similar route: Big idea, subpar execution.”
Some of the couple’s ideas “seemed designed to replicate successful shows already on Netflix, such as a sitcom described as Emily in Paris, but about a man.”
Currently, per the Journal, the duke and duchess are developing a Great Expectations prequel which would recast Miss Havisham “as a strong woman living in a patriarchal society,” an idea that actually reads like a parody.
If all of this was not bad enough news, then along came the Sun to report that the couple could lose $77 million unless they come up with the goods for Netflix.
So far, according to the report, the Sussexes “are believed to have been paid only half of their reported £81 million ($A154 million) contract. And they will get the rest only if they produce content of real interest, an industry source has revealed.”
What that means is, if they were to miss out on this remaining Netflix cash, and if you factor in the up to $15 million which they reportedly missed out on via the cancellation of their Spotify deal, then Harry and Meghan could be down $92 million.
If we take the Bloomberg and Journal stories at face value, with Planet Sussex yet to comment, then what is abundantly clear is what they lack in creativity and follow-through they would seem to make up for with grasping chutzpah.
It is looking like entertainment bigwigs have finally clocked that with the Sussexes -their royal tales of woe having been wrung dryer than a mini bar adjacent to Princess Margaret – have very, very little – if anything at all – to offer.
Somehow, prepare yourself, a man who has never been seen in the vicinity of a book and a woman who formerly starred in C-grade rom-coms are not creative powerhouses to rival Shonda Rhimes or the Coen brothers.
Where things get even bumpier is when you look to the future. If Netflix does bow out of their Sussex union come 2025 that could see Harry and Meghan nearly all but unemployed – and unemployable.
Oh sure, Aitch would still have his role as Chief Impact Officer of coaching and mental fitness platform BetterUp and at some point either the duke or the duchess or both of them may well crank out a new book but what else can or will the Sussexes do?
Last week it was briefly reported that Meghan was set to become the face of Christian Dior, a claim that was killed faster than a grouse on the Balmoral estate when a bored and antsy Prince Andrew is in situ.
When the Telegraph’s Head of Fashion Lisa Armstrong asked one independent luxury fashion consultant whether they would suggest working with the duchess to a client they said, “Over my dead body.” Another industry veteran said of the couple, “they’re just too divisive for a big, international brand to take on.”
So, if the TV, movie, podcast and fashion sectors aren’t interested in partnering with Harry and Meghan, then where in the name of their mortgage repayments does that leave them professionally? Trying out the home shopping network? Selling supplements via Instagram? Dropshipping hummingbird feeders?
What companies are going to want to wager millions on working with the royal renegades given their decidedly patchy track record?
And if Harry ever does get his podcast about controversial figures and their childhoods off the ground then, he might want to consider mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led the weekend’s Russian mutiny, as a guest. Two men who are both insurrectionists, of a sort? Two men whose actions have seen them exiled from home? I bet Yevgeny would even bring his own camomile tea bags.
Daniela Elser is a writer, editor, and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.