Palm Royale

Palm Royale

2024 - United States

Review by AJ
The days of 22-episode a season television may already be heading towards extinction as it’s all about prestige TV now, but the appetite for good ol’ soap opera never seems to die. Amid all the tightly plotted drama with high brow concepts, catty dramas full of scandalous antics and ridiculous plot twists always find their own place; they just come with shinier packaging now. HBO has Big Little Lies and The Gilded Age. Netflix has Ginny & Georgia. And now, AppleTV+, who’s been aggressively pursuing the hot streaming pie against much bigger players, has entered the game with the deliciously retro Palm Royale.  

To describe the show briefly: it’s a cross between Desperate Housewives (in spirit) and Mad Men (in style). The show follows a group of privileged housewives living in Palm Beach in 1969. They would regularly convene at Palm Royale, the town’s most exclusive country club, spending the day one-upping each other and giving backhanded compliments. The ladies’ peacefully haughty existence is interrupted by the arrival of an eager newbie, Maxine Dellacorte-Simmons (Kristen Wiig). Maxine’s determination to gain entrance to their circle soon exposes dirty secrets hidden beneath the well manicured facade of these Palm Beach elites.

Palm Royale

With Oscar-calibre cast like Wiig, Allison Janney as society queen Evelyn Rollins, and Laura Dern as hippie feminist activist Linda Shaw, Palm Royale couldn’t have felt more prestigious. Their top notch acting definitely lifts this dramedy beyond its traditional soap opera trappings. With full commitments to all the juicy plot twists dished out in all 10 episodes of the show, the dark comedy and sassy dialogues shine so unironically. Another particular performance worth noting is Leslie Bibb as socialite Dinah Donohue, who goes toe to toe with her pedigreed counterparts with equal parts bitchiness and vulnerability. 

Indeed, there is always something really appealing about rich, well-dressed ladies engaging in catfights. The continued success of Kardashians and Real Housewives reality shows certainly prove this. The plotline of Palm Royale isn’t anything novel. A newcomer disrupting the status quo at a flawed establishment is a concept as old as time, but as always, it’s in the execution.

Palm Royale deftly balances character dynamics with insane plot turns. It’s all centred in Wiig’s Maxine, a one-time beauty queen who’s obsessed with entering high society. Her dogged resolution to be accepted at Palm Royale results in everything from forgery, theft, blackmail, and manipulation. Like Tanya in The White Lotus, she’s someone who’s loathed – at best tolerated – by just about everyone on the show and the show makes no bones that she IS reprehensible. It is to the writing and performer’s credit, then, that we as audiences can still elicit some sympathy for this villain dressed as protagonist. 

Palm Royale

Visually, the show is a treat for lovers of vintage aesthetics. The late 1960’s setting incorporates everything that one would associate with the era: the technicolor fashion, the bouffant, the WASP-y domestic life with its country club charity and beauty salon rendezvous, the rock-n-roll soundtrack, the political climate of Nixon’s presidency and the rising feminist movement. The fashion, in particular, features a whole array of archive pull and inspired pieces that the camera lovingly lingers on to show off the details. Palm Royale sure understands that their show is geared towards women. 

Featuring the most fabulous female talents, easy-to-digest soapy drama, and eye-catching sartorial picks, Palm Royale makes up for its formulaic format with a whole lot of flair. 

Published on May 16th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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