David Modell's 90-minute interview with Thomas Markle strove from the outset to strike a dignified tone.
It opened with an epic panning shot of azure waters lapping the shore of Markle's adopted home of Rosarito in Mexico. The colours were super-saturated, the title credits minimalist in that voguish Hollywood fashion. Were you watching a tell-all chinwag with the Duchess of Sussex's estranged father – or the latest Fast and Furious film?
This veneer was quick to crack over the course of Thomas Markle: My Story (made by the UK's Channel 5 and which screened here on TVNZ 1 last night), a (by turns) gripping, pitiable and baffling documentary.
Markle, 75, is clearly a frustrated and unhappy man who misses his daughter. But he also came across as oblivious as to how his actions might seem to others. Could he, for instance, understand why many would consider it a violation to share precious home videos of father and daughter from Meghan's childhood and adolescence?
Watching these clips felt like a transgression. That will have been so regardless of whether you are a solid monarchist, raving republican or simply somewhere in the middle.
Harry and Meghan, busy settling into their new home in Canada, must have been horrified to hear that Thomas was chatting to Channel 5. On the off-chance that they watched, their distress will have increased exponentially across the hour-and-a-half.
• The day Harry and Meghan checked out of the royal family
• The photo that revealed early troubles for Harry and Meghan
• Meghan reveals why quitting royal family is the best thing for Harry
• Oprah declares her '1,000 per cent' support for Harry and Meghan
With the interviewer adopting the Louis Theroux tactic of posing deft questions in an innocuous manner, Markle spoke from the gut, the heart and everywhere else. It made for splattering, emotionally messy television – not so much excruciating to witness as mildly stifling to get through.
If gossip is what brought you here, on the other hand, you'll have been left happy.
Thomas recounted Meghan giving him cash presents as she found success with her show Suits, but he seemed to regard it as his due. He cried seeing the Prince of Wales walk his daughter down the aisle. And he was unsympathetic towards his daughter's desire to step back from royalty and live a more private life.
"It's disappointing because she actually got every girl's dream," he said.
"Every young girl wants to become a princess and she got that and now she's tossing that away, for – it looks like she's tossing that away for money. Apparently $3 million (£2.3m) and a 26-bedroom home isn't enough for them. It's kind of embarrassing to me."
There were a few regrets. He welled up recalling the posed photographs he had been encouraged to stage before Harry and Meghan's wedding. He hadn't faked the shots for money, he said – though he continues to be compensated for them – he did it because he was fed up with the media's ridicule and he wanted to improve his image.
At times like this, Markle was hard to read. His love for his daughter was unmistakeable. But director David Modell (a Bafta winner for his 2003 Channel 4 documentary Young, Nazi and Proud) didn't go far enough in interrogating his subject's motives for speaking and his curious tendency to always stumble into the spotlight.
The interviews were recorded over three days, and Markle displayed a full range of emotions: from anger to despair via regret and fatalism. One fascinating component of the film was a deep dive into his family history via faded photographs of the young Thomas growing up in Pennsylvania or unhappily married to his first wife.
In one picture, he glares at the camera: he's only 20 years old, but he already looks at the world through blank and suspicious eyes. A more astute documentary might have explored how he ended up that way, and whether he is still like that today.
But the documentary was ultimately just there for the tittle-tattle. It certainly got what it came for.