By Elaine Showalter
March 25, 1996 12:00 PM

CBS IS RUSHING TO FINISH A TV MOVIE about Princess Diana’s adulterous affair with ex-Guardsman James Hewitt, and even Diana herself, in that sensational BBC interview last November, called her marriage a “soap opera.” But the Royal Divorce is becoming too big for a special or a miniseries; why not have a whole Windsor Channel instead? Dynastic crisis, backstairs intrigue, sexual scandal, alternative therapies—there’s enough going on at the palace to keep me watching around the clock.

Diana would be the main attraction, of course, and the Windsor Channel would be a natural place to revive animator Jay Ward’s “Fractured Fairy Tales.” But there could be airtime for other royals as well. The Queen could present Handbags of the Rich and Famous, and Prince Charles could host Masterpiece Theatre, which has lost its starchy British tone since Russell Baker took over from Alistair Cooke. Fergie could solve her money woes by peddling cubic zirconium jewelry on a home-shopping show, and all the nannies, butlers and lovers with stories to sell could hawk their 900 numbers.

Jay Leno, who is beating the worldwide pants off of David Letterman in the monologue War of the Windsors, could be the late-night host of the channel. It’s hard to make a marriage work, Leno jokes, when both partners are dating other people; after the divorce, he says, if Diana moves to California, Pat Buchanan will try to have her ousted as an unemployed alien.

It’s easy to take shots at our national obsession with Di. On My So-Called Life, now rerunning on MTV, troubled wife Patty (Bess Armstrong), facing her own marital problems, dreams one night that Diana comes to her house, sobbing, “Princesses just don’t get divorced.” Hearing of this, Patty’s daughter Angela (Claire Danes) groans, “Not another Princess Diana dream!” Cynics may cry, “Enough!” but the turbulent Windsor saga is compelling television, the stuff of history and dreams. “I’ll fight to the end,” Diana told the BBC, “because I have a role to fulfill and I’ve got two children to bring up.” Jackie Kennedy couldn’t have said it better. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the person who is tired of the Windsors is tired of life.