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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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."
One show just for the adults
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Entertaining, yet Educating.
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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?
- Premiere date: February 1, 2019
- Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Dascha Polanco, Charlie Barnett
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Absurdist buddy comedy is female-friendly, edgy.
Orange Is the New Black
Quality true-story prison dramedy with sex, strong language.
Parks and Recreation
Local government spoof for mature viewers is goofy at heart.
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