Friday, February 8, 2019

Pilot Review: Russian Doll

Russian Doll (Netflix)
Premiered February 3

I imagine most people tuned I to watch this show because they figured Natasha Lyonne staring in anything sounded like a superb idea. I certainly did, and it’s true – the “Orange is the New Black” star and Emmy nominee is extremely charismatic. She has a way with words, with the way that she pronounces every sentence adding tremendous depth and hilarity. I think I read a description of this show’s premise some time before sitting down to watch the opening installment, but I had forgotten it by the time I actually started. If there was anyone who was going to be stuck in a time loop, Lyonne is likely one of the funnier choices, and it’s a bit strange to see it in a setting that’s so distinctly set apart from science fiction, though I guess “Groundhog Day” is one of the most classic examples which is certainly more rooted in comedy than it is in genre tropes. There have been other shows with this premise before, though they’re rarely comedies, and “Daybreak” was one particularly lamentable one that went downhill immediately. It shouldn’t take too long for Lyonne’s Nadia to start saying the words she’s heard those around her utter before or while they say them, and for now, she’s making connections to the people who seem most important to her to determine how they can help her get through the night or at least stop living it over and over. It’s appealing, but this opening half-hour didn’t entice me enough to watch Lyonne do it again and again before maybe figuring out how to escape this cycle.

How will it work as a series? Lyonne has always had a way of expressing things literally when no one around her seems to understand them, and that skill should prove enormously useful here in pointing out the absurdity of her situation that no one else is able to see. Is that enough to fill eight episodes? I’m not sure, but it should at least prove entertaining.
How long will it last? The reviews are very good, and it’s just a question of what happens at the end of episode eight, whether Nadia is dead for good or if she has a new chance either to live life or rope someone else into experiencing this repeating night with over countless times. Given Lyonne’s popularity and appeal, I predict this one gets another round in some form.

Pilot grade: B

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