Russian Doll

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Russian Doll TV Poster Image
Drugs, sex, language, strong women in terrific show.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The entire series functions as a subtle metaphor for the healing that can result from therapy, and from accepting yourself as you are, but the lesson is buried underneath a tricky plot with lots of characters and action, so it may get lost. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters have a lot of foibles -- they use drugs, they treat each other unkindly, they lie, they steal -- but they're actively working to improve their lot and their lives. The cast boasts diversity in terms of race, age, ethnic diversity, and socioeconomic status, and strong women are at the center of the action. 


Violence can be sudden and shocking: a character is hit by a car and killed; we see her lying in the street with blood on her face; we also see characters plummeting in an elevator, falling headfirst into a basement, falling down stairs, and other accidents. One character makes an ironic reference to suicide: "If nobody eats my chicken I'm going to f--king kill myself." 


Sex can be frank, especially talk: a man puts his hand under a woman's skirt and says "God, you're wet," before they begin kissing and the camera cuts away for implied sex. "I don't know why anal play is so taboo for straight men," is heard in another scene. Characters talk about "f--king" and having group sex, but all we see is same- and opposite-sex kissing and characters lying in bed together afterwards. In one scene, a man wears a strap-on dildo, but we don't see him in action and no private parts are visible. 


Language includes "f--k," "f--king," "dips--t," "p---y," "s--t," "pissing," and other vulgar words. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character smokes constantly, says she smokes two packs a day, and that she doesn't expect to live past her early 70s. Characters also use alcohol and drugs, particularly during a party scene in which they smoke a cigarette supposedly laced with cocaine (it turns out to be ketamine), and in a montage in which a character snorts, smokes, and drinks her way into oblivion. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Russian Doll is a mystery/comedy that enters on Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), a woman trapped in a cycle she can't escape (it's hard to give details without spoiling the series). The show is excellent, but quite mature in content. Sexual talk is frank, even though we don't actually see much; characters refer to group sex, infidelity, body parts, and other topics. They also have sex with each other, although we don't see any naked bodies or actual sex, just some same- and opposite-sex kissing and groping through clothing. A main character smokes nearly constantly, and she and others imbibe many types of drugs and alcohol; in one scene she snorts a white powder, smokes marijuana from a bowl, guzzles liquor, and so on. Violence can be shocking, and often results in death, though it's usually non-graphic: a character trips and falls into a basement, another grabs a metal railing and is electrocuted. Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "p---y," "c--t." 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 10, and 13-year-old Written byMissSimpsonReveiw April 16, 2019

Entertaining, yet Educating.

A sort of 'Happy Death Day' show with less scares and more substance abuse. The main character despite first appearing as obnoxious later shows to be... Continue reading
Adult Written byMrsDBell35 February 4, 2019

Such a good series!!!!

Let me start by saying I don’t think anyone under 16 should see this. This show tackles many serious subjects and it can be a lot even for adults. The character... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bywill_thrill123 February 2, 2021
Teen, 14 years old Written bykxxks April 3, 2020

What's the story?

RUSSIAN DOLL's Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is going through a particularly hard time in her life, crystallized the night of her 36th birthday, when a party thrown by her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) turns into a nightmare that Nadia can't escape. As layers of truth emerge, and all of the people who inhabit her life react, staying in touch with reality could prove to be hardest thing of all. 

Is it any good?

By turns funny, scary, and surprisingly profound, this wild mix of black comedy and tense drama is unlike any other -- and it's better the less you know. Suffice it to say that Nadia is a wisecracking smart NYC character in the mold of Abbi and Ilana, but she's dealing with far heavier situations and questions. There's a central mystery to her life that emerges more strongly as the season goes on -- and shifts in tone and time -- but for a while we just get to enjoy watching this singular woman relate to her friends and colleagues, who are all in delightfully different situations and stations: artist friend Lizzy (Rebecca Henderson), last seen heading off to make "blood jelly" for an art performance about a religious protestor,  Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), her therapist aunt who works with traumatized patients, the homeless man Horse (Brendan Sexton III) who may hold the key to Nadia's problem. 

New York itself emerges as a terrifically quirky character too, with Nadia running uptown and downtown seeking answers at synagogues and underground drug labs and bodegas. It's clear that Lyonne (who co-wrote and -created Russian Doll along with Amy Poehler and indie director Leslye Headland) has deep affection for her city -- and a love of a great line, most of which belong to her in her show. When Max answers a call with an impromptu lecture on Dolores Huerta, Nadia asks "Is this some sort of a Wikipedia-sponsored voicemail greeting?"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether knowing the storyline of Russian Doll makes watching the unfolding action less enjoyable. Is it a spoiler to reveal her dilemma? When did the idea of spoilers, and criticism for sharing them, come about? Do you ever share spoilers? Do you mind others doing it? 

  • Nadia and other characters use drugs frequently, heavily, and casually. Nadia also says she smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and smokes almost continually onscreen. Is it damaging to viewers, particularly young people, to see this use depicted? Does anyone suffer consequences from their use? How can parents prevent their children from smoking? Does anyone suffer consequences from the casual sex characters engage in, either? 

  • Would it surprise you to learn that this show is written and directed by an all-female team? Are shows created by women more likely to focus on them as main characters? Why? Can you think of examples of male creators who made shows about women, or female ones about men? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate