Netflix is overflowing with new material. From original films to television shows under the swell of flashy advertising, it’s difficult to choose which program to watch.
“Russian Doll” is one of the television shows that rises above the tsunami of content. Unlike some programs which feel like a chore to watch, “Russian Doll” is a delightful breath of fresh air. With only eight episodes at 30 minutes each, you’ll be begging for more at the finale.
“Russian Doll” stars a fabulous Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”) as a snarky, substance obsessed New York hipster who continues to die and wake up at her birthday party. The show is a mélange of genres and inspirations, from “Groundhog Day” to fantasy to buddy comedy. Yet, it works and never grows boring despite the repeated birthday party and events of the same day.
Created and produced by Leslye Headland (writer of “Bachelorette” and “Sleeping with Other People”), Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler, the comedy flourishes from the humor all three women honed throughout their careers. The fantasy aspect, however, adds an ominous tone to the show as Lyonne wonders whether she’ll be able to make it out of this time loop alive. “Russian Doll” is Headland’s first television directorial debut and the show fully advances her previous, already skilled work.
One of the elements that makes “Russian Doll” so original is it’s fully developed cast of characters. Standout cast members include Greta Lee, Rebecca Henderson and Chloe Sevigny. Without giving anything away, the addition of Charlie Barnett’s character adds a much needed twist to the story, which doesn’t gain momentum until episode three. But stick with it, because the unpredictability of the latter episodes utilize the time loop genre to its full, experimental extent.
What starts as a satire of hipster culture and a comedic character study ultimately evolves into insightful ruminations about mental health, suicide and fate. While the pill popping, orgy obsessed birthday party Lyonne starts at appears exciting in the first few episodes, after a while it seems pointless in the grand scheme of life. This is the creator’s intention, as the show reveals Lyonne’s mental health struggles and how her character hides behind drugs and sex to cope with trauma.
“Russian Doll” advances the genre of the time loop, unlike this month’s theatrical flop “Happy Death Day 2U.” It’s one the rare shows that mixes pure entertainment with philosophical trajectories. So stay on your couch this cold season instead of going out to the cinema to binge “Russian Doll.”