Deliciously Empty Calories: Our Review of ‘Palm Royale’

Posted in Apple TV +, TV, What's Streaming? by - March 18, 2024
Deliciously Empty Calories: Our Review of ‘Palm Royale’

Imagine Desperate Housewives set in 1969 Palm Beach, and that’s exactly what Palm Royale delivers. The new Apple miniseries stars Kristin Wiig as Maxine, a former pageant queen who married the heir to a “plastics and mouthwash fortune” he has yet to inherit. Determined to make a home for her husband in his ritzy hometown, Maxine sets her sights on membership at Palm Royale, the most exclusive social club in America – maybe even the world! But can a plucky beauty queen prove herself in a place where socialites eat each other for hors d’oeuvres? How will Maxine adapt to a world where “kill or be killed” is the (perhaps literal) mantra? Those are the delicious questions Palm Royale takes on.

Created by Eyes of Tammy Faye writer Abe Sylvia, Palm Royale is campy fun. If you like a show where talented actresses yell at each other a lot, this is what you’ve been waiting for! Maxine’s conniving fellow socialites are played by such legends as Alison Janney, Leslie Bibb, and the great Carol Burnett! Because this cast is basically the definition of “an embarrassment of riches,” Laura also shows up in a supporting role as an heiress turned feminist activist who befriends the more conservative Maxine. And if Oscar-winning Ms. Dearn isn’t enough to entice you, Ricky Martin himself shows up as a Palm Royale staff member who wants Maxine turfed out of the club…

While there is a murder mystery attached to the series (in flash-forwards, someone gets shot Maxine might be the killer), it’s much more satisfying just to soak up the fanciness. The Mid-Century designer costumes and sumptuous set design make the world feel gorgeously unreal, as the female leads glide around town in designer shoes and chic Halston minidresses. When they attend fittings or swan around galas, each socialite has an aspirational swagger that makes you simultaneously loathe them and see why Maxine wants to be them – and why she’ll go to extreme lengths to get what they have.

Child-free and poised to inherit a great deal of money, Maxine purports not to care about changing the world. Rather, she is content to plan parties and be an ornament on her husband’s arm. For her, membership at the Palm Royale would prove she is the “right kind of woman” – one who embodies the traditional values of her idol, Patricia Nixon. But what is interesting about Maxine’s journey is how her attempts to become the perfect Palm Royale Housewife require her to flirt with feminism. Whether she’s securing an illegal abortion for a fellow socialite or attending feminist consciousness-raising groups to get dirt on her enemies, feminists provide the answer when Maxine finds herself in a pickle. So, will the show teach you anything about intersectional feminism that 2020’s Mrs. America – a miniseries about anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly – won’t? No, but a TV series doesn’t have to be profound to justify its existence. Sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy the catty banter and the cute clothes…

In the end, Palm Royale is a gourmet cheeseburger of the highest caliber. Will it transform the way you see class or feminism? No! But does this show look great while providing you with some soapy twists and turns? Absolutely! Come on an empty stomach, because this is one series you’ll enjoy binging…




This post was written by
Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Refinery29, Elle Canada, Flare, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-founder of The ProfessionElle Society. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about parenting, politics, and The Bachelor.
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