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TV Review: Russian Doll

TV Review, Russian Doll, Netflix, Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne, comedy, Sitcom

SYNOPSIS: Russian Doll follows a young woman named Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) on her journey as the guest of honor at a seemingly inescapable party one night in New York City. 

TV Review, Russian Doll, Netflix, Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne, comedy, Sitcom

REVIEW: For every massively anticipated series that Netflix offers, there are multiple shows that fly under the radar until they become buzzy sleeper hits. Stranger Things was one such show and the latest one is Russian Doll. A half hour comedy from Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, Russian Doll has it's roots in the films GROUNDHOG DAY and HAPPY DEATH DAY but is so much more. In fact, Russian Doll is easily one of the best shows of this early year. Like the title, this series is itself a russian nesting doll of genres with each episode packed with comedy, drama, horror, and so much more. With the eight episode first season, you will find yourself blasting through it in one sitting to find out just what the hell is going on.

Russian Doll opens on Natasha Lyonne's face as she stares at herself in a bathroom mirror. Celebrating her 36th birthday, we meet her circle of friends who are throwing the party as well as her ex (Yul Vasquez) and a stranger (The Knick's Jeremy Bobb). Over the course of the first ten minutes of the premiere episode, we quickly realize that since Natasha Lyonne stars, produces, and co-wrote this series that it would have a lot of her personal style and mannerisms to it. In many ways, Nadia is a slightly skewed take on Lyonne herself with a dry wit and a thick New York accent. Many of you may know Lyonne from her role on Orange is the New Black or her film work in the AMERICAN PIE series, but this may be her best work since SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS.

It is also only about ten minutes into the show before we see Nadia die for the first time. Like Bill Murray in GROUNDHOG DAY, the next day resets to where the first episode premiered with Nadia retaining memories of what happened all of the previous times. As the series progresses, the time between deaths varies from spanning entire episodes to dozens of deaths within mere minutes. Whereas GROUNDHOG DAY reset when Phil died or went to sleep and restarted with him waking up the next morning, Nadia's cycle only starts over when she reaches death with some of her resets spanning hours or even into the next day. By keeping the format open, the events unfold differently each time with some key elements changing depending on how Nadia interacts with her surroundings. Rather than feel repetitive, Headland and Lyonne manage to make each new day feel like something you have not seen before.

Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland also have a phenomenal working relationship. Headland directed Lyonne in the underrated film SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE and the partnership with producer Amy Poehler gives this series a refreshing edge. With a predominantly female crew, Russian Doll is going to be reduced to some as a MeToo reboot of GROUNDHOG DAY. What we should be looking at it as is the long overdue showcase for Natasha Lyonne. Russian Doll is a very New York show from the filming locations to the attitude of the characters, but it feels like this series was designed specifically for Lyonne. Her delivery of each scene is so unique to her personality that this show could not have worked without her in the lead. Much like Master of None, Louie, Maron, and other comedian-centric series in recent years, this show is built around who Lyonne is and grew from there.

TV Review, Russian Doll, Netflix, Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne, comedy, Sitcom

As good as Lyonne is on the show, the full cast really rounds out the realistic portrayal of New York City. From Greta Lee and Yul Vasquez to Charlie Barnett, Elizabeth Ashley as Nadia's therapist, Brendan Sexton III, Chloe Sevigny and Devin Ratray, everyone here feels like they could have been plucked off of a city street. In many ways, Russian Doll is an ode to New York in a similar way as TBS' underrated sitcom Search Party which takes a more Millennial approach to a similarly dark story. But Russian Doll works because it is more than a high concept plot device and has a very well rounded cast of characters to help sell this insane story.

Some may not be as amused by the very specific sense of humor this series has, but if you like your comedy with a biting edge, graphic sexual references, and heaps of profanity, you will enjoy Russian Doll. But if you came for the repeated death scenes or simply to unravel the mystery of why this is happening to Nadia, you will find that there is a lot more to this story thanks to Lyonne's pitch perfect performance and a unique style that Headland brings as director. Coming in with no preconceived notions and not even having seen a trailer, I watched the entire series in a single sitting and loved every moment of it. I mean this in the best possible way, but I hope that they don't make a second season as this run of episodes is one of the most consistent and entertaining I have seen in the binge TV era.

Russian Doll premieres February 1st on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

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