HBO’s Catherine the Great Is Just OK

TV Reviews Catherine the Great
HBO’s Catherine the Great Is Just OK

Can Helen Mirren do any wrong?

I’m sorry to say, she can choose the wrong role.

I was so excited about watching HBO’s new series, Catherine the Great. I assumed since Helen Mirren was the star that it was toward the end of the Russian ruler’s life. Mainly because history tells us that Catherine the Great took over her husband’s throne in her thirties. She went on to have lots of lovers and even have some kids with these men. And while I have no doubt that Helen Mirren could definitely get a hot young guy to sleep with her, I find it far less likely that a woman her age would get pregnant in the 18th century. (Unless they have modern fertility treatments that I’m just unaware of.)

And it is true that Catherine the Great had many young lovers. History says that her last lover was Prince Zubov who was 40 years her junior. This could have been the story line for the show. In fact, if by some chance they give this show a second season, they should skip ahead to this storyline.

That I would watch and eat up, because it is also believable. Of course, Helen Mirren could snag a young prince. But instead they chose to start the first episode right when Catherine stages a coup and takes over power from her husband—an actual Russian ruler, whereas Catherine was German.

(A month after she took control, her husband mysteriously dies. Not really mysteriously though; I mean, we can guess what happened.)

So it is quite the mental leap to see Helen Mirren as the young whipsmart ruler.That’s the thing. It takes some mental gymnastics that I just wasn’t trained to do. It would take Simone Biles level skill to make this work.

Elsewhere, the show, like other HBO shows, is graphic. Prepare to see cruel killing and lots of sex. Notably, while the show is about Catherine’s sex life, they don’t show her having sex but just allude to it. Her best friend however, has lots of sex with a man who wants her.

To repeat though: Helen Mirren is amazing. I just think they missed an opportunity to let her tell a great story.

Here’s the other issue for me. A 30 year-old immigrant overthrowing a rightful heir to the throne and ruling Russia is an amazing story. It was the chance to highlight a young woman who was deeply flawed. I mean, you definitely should not kill your enemies … but, seriously. Imagine that. Imagine if Meghan Markle somehow just took over the British crown, and the country didn’t erupt into complete and utter chaos.


That is essentially what Catherine did. Not only that, but she had progressive policies she wanted to implement, and the show does a good job of highlighting her thoughts on slavery and how she spoke out against it.

Even if you can get over the historical inaccuracies, the show still falls kind of flat. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t get into it. My recommendation: if there is a Season Two, that they just skip ahead to a storyline that makes sense: a sexy older Catherine the Great and a hot young prince. That is a TV season I could get behind.

Catherine the Great premieres Monday, October 21st on HBO.

Keri is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.

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