The Great is pretty good!

Anyone else watching this series that just dropped on Hulu? I’m loving it. It’s created by Tony McNamara, of “The Favourite” fame, and is a very anachronistic, often hilarious riff on the rise of Catherine the Great (played wonderfully by Elle Fanning, who I know is already a star, but may go into some rarefied air on the back of this performance). Nicolas Houle plays the Emperor, Peter the…well, the son of Peter the Great. He’s hysterical in the role of an utterly clueless asshole.

At times it gets a bit too madcap, almost like Armando Ianucci at the Tsar’s Court…but McNamara manages to rein it in for a slightly more subtle approach much of the time. Not that he’s charted a path for this that is at all historical. Hahahaha, no, no, no. But then again, sometimes yes. The broad outlines are roughly there, but then it’s as if everyone involved is working off a “Why let the truth get in the way of a brilliant story?” mode.

“You may not remember it, but a week or two ago I shot your bear and punched you. Perhaps it has cast a pall between us.”

You’re either going to hear a line of dialogue like that and want nothing to do with whatever filmed entertainment product spawned it…or you’re going to hear a line of dialogue like that and want to buy up whatever that show is selling.

I think I’m in the latter category when it comes to “The Great.”

My girlfriend flipped to this on Hulu and asked me if I wanted to watch it. I reflexively said no because she watches all those boring Masterpiece Theater shows and this looked like it was going to be that. She said “Do you even know what it is? It’s a satire”. I was not convinced but watched the trailer anyway. Hmm looks kinda interesting but no, I don’t think I will. She starts watching without me, but 20 mins later I wander back into the room to eat dinner together. Before the meal is done I’m hooked and when she asks me if she can continue watching without me I say “no I’ want to watch it”

It’s a good show. Solid jokes/acting and the conflict between the two main characters is fun to watch unfold.

The choice of end-credit music for each episode is absolutely inspired:

Patti Smith, Primal Scream, Cat Power, The Buzzcocks, Courtney Barnett, Thomas Dolby, etc.


And now I’ve finished the season.

I really, really enjoyed this, more than I expected to. I think about episode 3, I started to wonder “Is this thing a 1-joke pony?” and you could make the usual TV show argument that the show definitely shows too much its episodic structure. But interestingly, it finds its way out of the corner I thought it had painted itself into in episode 3, and by the 5th of the 10 episodes I was in full-on binge mode.

And the final few episodes are really brilliant. Even if you know how the history here will end up, there are a bunch of twists and turns that get thrown down. And for a show that at times feels almost too breezy, it finds some real gravitas and even allows a main character who’s played a caricature (brilliantly, for what that’s worth) to actually be three dimensional.

Huzzah for The Great. Big recommendation.

This was an out-of-nowhere pleasant surprise to me. Hadn’t heard a thing about it but the idea of a comedy about Catherine the Great raised my eyebrow. Honestly I went in expecting it to be a ridiculous disaster.

I’ll throw in a trigger warning for historical purists with a working knowledge of Catherine the Great, this show will make you lose your mind and may lead to psychological trauma. It doesn’t bother me, but for the type of person who thinks every historical piece should be as accurate as possible, they will hate this with a passion.

Found this surprisingly good as well, although I had seen the trailer, and gotten some positive vibes from that.

The historical purist in me should really be screaming about this, but the blatant disregard for history worked for me despite it all. Maybe because it is so blatant - they are smart to advertise it as “an occasionally true story” and somehow that allows me to avoid it despite all the horrible things they do to the history.

I wasn’t sure that the mix of comedy and drama would work initially; Avenue 5 also tried to mix the funny with “serious things” (and a fair bit of yuck) and fell absolutely flat for me - but in the Great it works, somehow.

I think it’s very much the character writing. A5 was full of awful people who were just… awful. The Great has some awful people as well, but none of them are just vehicles for jokes - they’re not one-dimensional. You can see where each one is coming from - even Peter. Who is of course another strong suit of the show - the main actors are pretty amazing. Hoult, in particular, is absolutely fantastic. Huzzah! (just the number of different ways he can inflect that, is worth an Oscar).

I read that they had plans for a second season (The Great is based on a play, and the first two seasons of the show = the first 40 minutes of the play, apparently), and prior to the finale I did not see how they would do it - Hoult is a big part of why the first season is so great, and a post-Coup story seemed like it would lose out on a lot of the dynamics that make the first season work. And if I have one criticism of the show, it is that it is perhaps overly long. It ends strong, though, so I’ll definitely be there if it returns.

I know I just recently said this about Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but The Great’s pilot episode is one of the best first episodes of a show I’ve seen. That was amazing. What an amazing journey to take in one episode, from an idealistic romantic all the way down to where she ended up by the end of the episode. I loved it. It kind of reminded of my own journey of romanticism and the death of it after I got married.

Holy cow, if your marriage was anything like Catherine and Peter’s… do you need a hug?

I would appreciate one, but only after we all get vaccinated.


The second episode is one of the best hours of television I’ve seen. Orlo trying to save the beard of one man, and Catherine trying to win Orlo over to her new cause. And Peter being Peter.

God, this show is so good.

If they had made each episode 15-20 minutes shorter I would have rated it fantastic, but as it is I thought each one dragged just a little, with some amazing moments through out that more than made up for it.

Absolutely worth watching.

I can’t speak to what it’s like to watch a whole episode in one sitting yet. For both episodes I was interrupted in the middle, and had to finish each episode the next day.

So when viewed in approximately 25 minute chunks, I can absolutely say that each of these 4 chunks have not dragged at all and been really well cut together. The Beard episode, in particular, was just masterful in this regard. It never felt like we were switching scenes even when we were, because it felt like it was part of a larger conversation. So even though we were switching from a private bedroom to a ball in honor of fallen soldiers, to a hunting exercise, to a servant’s quarters, it all feels seamlessly coherent. Like I said, it feels like an ongoing conversation rather than separate sets.

There’s a weird rhythm to the show, for sure.

There were moments in all the middle episodes where I felt like it was easy to see the story being padded for episodic TV, maybe.

But then – and this is what was striking to me – it managed to quickly circle back and pull me right back in quickly every time I felt that laggy bit hit. Almost as if Tony McNamara felt the same way and snapped everything back quickly.

I love Hoult in this show, perfect casting.

I just knew him from the prequel X-men movies where he plays the Beast. And he didn’t make much of an expression on me. So I had no idea he was so good.

I watched all of Episode 3 in one sitting today. Peter gives Catherine a lover, and dedicates a memorial to his father, Peter the Great. Great episode. Lots of great comedy in this episode. It’s amazing to me that this show threads this line between seriousness and humor so well. I’m always on the verge of being horrified and that’s usually when they get the biggest laugh out of me.

I know I disagree with most on this forum who saw Death of Stalin, where I was mostly just on the horrified side of the line, and the movie didn’t get many laughs from me.

if you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, I recommend it. He plays what seems like one of the hordes of minions but becomes more important. He’s also in The Favourite, which shares a lot of DNA with The Great. His role there isn’t too far off from The Great’s Peter, just farther down the pecking order.

Both of those movies were probably my favorite movies of their respective years. Was he responsible for that? He didn’t hurt them!

Heck, I remember seeing him long ago as the co-lead in “About a Boy”, and thinking he was really good for a kid actor in that.

I have seen “About a Boy”, that was a great movie. It’s been a long time though, so I don’t remember it very clearly. But I hadn’t realized he was the heavily made-up kid in Mad Max. Unrecognizable! :)

“What a day! What a lovely day!!,” is probably my favorite line from Fury Road.