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 The Great is a dramatic comedy series about Catherine the Great and her experiences as Empress of Russia in the late 1700s. It contains strong sexual content, ranging from frequent crude innuendo to simulated sex acts and nudity (bare breasts and bottoms). There's lots of cursing, including frequent F-bombs, and physical assaults and animal shootings are frequent (and often a source of dark humor). Grotesque images of severed heads, bloody wounds, and other acts are also shown.
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What's the story?
From The Favourite co-writer Tony McNamara comes THE GREAT, a dramatic comedy series about the rise of Catherine the Great. Elle Fanning plays the young and romantic Catherine, who is sent off to Russia to marry the self-absorbed and untalented Emperor Peter (Nicholas Hoult). Upon arrival, she is forced to deal with her husband's womanizing and abuse, and must find companionship among the empty-headed ladies of the court, including the vindictive Lady Antonia Svenska (Danusia Samal) and Lady Georgina (Charity Wakefield), the wife of the Emperor's best friend, Grigor Dymov (Gwilym Lee). Meanwhile, her every move is monitored by the Archbishop (Adam Godley), who is responsible for the marriage. But with the help of her maid Marial (Phoebe Fox) and the intellectual Count Orlov (Sacha Dhawan), she begins plotting a path toward becoming one of the great rulers of all time.
Is it any good?
This fun, adult-oriented period piece tells of the rise of the young Catherine the Great through a successful blend of historical drama and campy, slapstick humor. It stays true to some accurate history about Catherine, including her love for education and the arts, as well as her desire to build a more progressive and powerful empire. But the storytelling process also relies on physical comedy and bawdy hypersexuality. This is mostly used to highlight the absurdity of Emperor Peter's court, which is ruled by an insecure man who is often ridiculous and, when crossed, cunningly cruel. Some of the comic devices feel a little too repetitive at times, but these are easy to get past, thanks to Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult's superb performances of their mercurial characters. Overall, The Great is smartly written and well produced, making it binge-worthy entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the story of Catherine the Great. What aspects of her life are presented accurately in The Great? What of her story is changed for dramatic or comedic effect?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love historical fiction
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