TV letter of recommendation for: The Great

I’ve been taking a step back from super heavy media industry analysis because of day job stuff and a big spring deadline, so it’s also no wonder that I’ve continued seeking out escapist period dramas over this past dark little month (see: the Peaky Blinders phase lol). Now I’m watching Hulu’s “The Great,” which perfectly fits the bill in terms of [x] fantastic taffeta-drenched costuming, [x] witty, anachronistic banter, and [x] a very doable amount of episodes (10 total, each an hour long). 

Side note: The latter lends credence to a working theory I have that the pandemic serves as a sort of golden age for a Limited series or Season 1 drop (see: The Undoing, I May Destroy You, Lupin, Bridgerton) because — as the fine folks at Dirt put it, Netflix is our travel agent now, and 6-10 episodes is now the equivalent of a one-week “trip.”

Anyway, I missed “The Great” when it first came around last May (can’t imagine why), but it’s verrrrrry interesting to watch it now and compare with the Bridgerton hype — after all, both shows are visually glorious British period pieces (“The Great” is technically set in Russia but don’t be fooled) with colorblind casting and racy sex scenes. I would say “The Great” is darker than “Bridgerton” and a LITTLE less softcore when it comes to sex stuff, but the provocative “not your mother’s period drama” billing for both shows is interesting given the knee-quaking phenomenon “Bridgerton” turned into. 

Potential theories for why this is include: timing (“Bridgerton” got that premium winter break release), the pure force of Shonda Rhimes’ power, and let’s be honest, the existence of Regé-Jean Page. (Nicholas Hoult, Sacha Dhawan, and Sebastian de Souza are all yum in “The Great,” but again, not knee-quaking). Moreover, “Bridgerton” is unequivocally about romance and scandal, whereas “The Great” seems a little in love with its treatment of the Enlightenment — you can only listen to Elle Fanning sigh dreamily over “science” and “ideas” so much. 

Still, that Enlightenmentphilia pays off by around episode 6, when the Elle Fanning as the empress finally convinces the court to host a little science fair and set up a printing press, and she’s like “now we will have a totally free and unmitigated exchange of ideas, what could possibly go wrong.” Cue havoc, and an uncanny Jack Dorsey lookalike who beholds the rise of secular authority with horror. Also, there is this great scene:

Make that the nth comparison between “Bridgerton” and “The Great:” they both engage in newsletter discourse!


(P.S. Did you catch Deez Links in The Wrap and last week’s Sunday Times??)


P.P.S., I’m glad food media could put aside our differences re: institutional racism and come together to fight the darkest force of all: tech bros who have no understanding of how good content is funded. Plus, the name is SO bad? Too Harry Potter spell-y, portmanteau startup names aren’t cool anymore. A spectacular all-around fail.


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