TV review: Princess Diana special covers familiar ground

THE SPECIAL: “The Last 100 Days of Diana”

WHEN, WHERE: Sunday at 9 p.m. on ABC

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, and this film — narrated by Martin Bashir — follows the last three months of her life, with special attention paid to her romantic relationships. This includes dozens of interviews, including Tina Brown (“The Diana Chronicles”) and Richard Kay (“Diana: The Untold Story”).

MY SAY: As long as there are TVs, and memories, and hearts to break, there will be documentaries on Princess Diana. No pretext is needed, no anniversary hook, and this program doesn’t exactly have one, either. “The Last 100 Days of Diana” is built on the conceit that her last three months anticipated her death in a Paris underpass — a perfect storm of jealousy, rejection and obsession leading to one final outcome. To briefly summarize, Diana had tipped off a photographer that she would be aboard Dodi Al Fayed’s yacht in the Mediterranean. A sensational photo — “The Kiss” — was subsequently published, and an army of paparazzi later descended on Paris to capture the sequel. Weeks earlier, she had been spurned by her lover Hasnat Khan in a secret rendezvous in London’s Battersea Park. The photo was intended to get Khan’s attention. It did: He apparently had been attempting to contact her just before her death.

None of this is even remotely newsworthy to Diana watchers. The relationship with Khan has been covered exhaustively, notably in a 2013 Vanity Fair story by Sarah Ellison (interviewed here), while the 2013 Naomi Watts movie “Diana” spent 113 minutes telling the same story that “100 Days” covers in 10.

What does seem new here is that conceit: Could those last 100 days have led to a different outcome? This portrait doesn’t waste time debating an answer but instead goes to the evidence, and an abundance of it. ABC News’ Terence Wrong — who produced “The Last 100 Days,” as well as “NY Med,” “Boston Med” and “Hopkins” — is an advocate of more-is-more. Dozens of interviews are here, with a vast amount of footage and a pointillistic attention to detail. Bashir even flies to Thailand to interview former Diana lover Gulu Lalvani.

But the closer “The Last 100 Days” gets to Diana, the further she recedes. Khan is not interviewed for this, nor are the Duke of Cambridge (William) or Prince Harry (HBO announced Tuesday it will air a film based on interviews with both later this summer).

Could those final days have led to a final outcome? No film, no matter how exhaustive, can hope for an answer. At least “The Last 100 Days” makes one irrefutable point, if not by design: On the 20th anniversary of her death, it’s time for a fresh perspective on Diana. Viewers deserve one. She especially does.

BOTTOM LINE: Exhaustive, but achingly familiar.


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