Monday, October 15, 2018

Pilot Review: The Romanoffs

The Romanoffs (Amazon)
Premiered October 12

Matthew Weiner is a big name in television. He rose to prominence as a producer and writer of “The Sopranos,” and then took home three consecutive Emmys for writing as well as a number of Best Drama Series trophies for “Mad Men.” Now, he’s back with another show, and he’s the type of person who probably would have been given a contract and series order to do just about whatever he wanted. Anthology series are always a gamble, if for no other reason that the quality can differ tremendously from one installment to the next. An ambitious project like this about the Romanoff family definitely sounds intriguing, though of course the twist is that it’s set in modern times and about people who think that they’re descended from this famed royal family. One of the most appealing parts of “Mad Men” was its period setting, and though “The Sopranos” was contemporary, it always felt like it was existing in its own sort of universe, powerful and haunting in its own timeless way. I did not expect to start this show and hear Aaron Eckhart speaking French, but that’s what we got for almost the entirety of the hour. I was waiting for the big moment that something was going to be revealed and this debut episode was going to feel worthwhile, but it never really came. The episodes of Weiner’s past shows always felt long and like movies, and this show actually features nearly ninety minute installments that should really feel a whole lot more intentional and purposeful.

How will it work as a series? Normally, if two episodes of a show are presented in its initial airing or release, I’ll watch them both. In this case, however, I don’t feel like giving three hours of my time to just one show. I’m okay with checking out the second installment, which features an entirely different cast and storyline, next week, to see what another chapter of this story might look like.
How long will it last? Having this show on Amazon presents more opportunities and options, and respect for Weiner may keep this show on the air even in the face of mixed reviews. The concept may have been very high-bar, and the execution, at least in the first episode, doesn’t seem to justify what I’m sure is an expensive budget. I think this is all we’ll see of it.

Pilot grade: B-