Russian Doll (TV series)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||24–30 minutes|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
|Original release||February 1, 2019 –|
Russian Doll is an American comedy-drama streaming television series, created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler, that premiered on February 1, 2019, on Netflix. The series follows Nadia Vulvokov (Lyonne), a game developer who repeatedly dies and relives the same night in an ongoing time loop and tries to solve it, leading to her finding Alan Zaveri in the same situation (portrayed by Charlie Barnett). It also stars Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, and Elizabeth Ashley.
Its first season received four Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Lyonne. In June 2019, the series was renewed for a second season.
Russian Doll follows a woman named Nadia who is caught in a time loop as the guest of honor at a seemingly inescapable party one night in New York City. She dies repeatedly, always restarting at the same moment at the party, as she tries to figure out what is happening to her. She meets a man who is experiencing exactly the same thing in a different event.
Cast and characters
- Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov, a software engineer who finds herself reliving her 36th birthday party in an ongoing time loop wherein she repeatedly dies and the process begins again.
- Brooke Timber portrays Nadia as a child.
- Greta Lee as Maxine, Nadia's friend, who throws her 36th birthday party.
- Yul Vazquez as John Reyes, a real estate agent and Nadia's ex-boyfriend who is currently in the process of divorcing his wife.
- Charlie Barnett as Alan Zaveri, a man who is also stuck in a time loop like Nadia.
- Elizabeth Ashley as Ruth Brenner, a therapist and close family friend of Nadia and her mother.
- Kate Jennings Grant portrays a young Ruth.
- Dascha Polanco as Beatrice, Alan's girlfriend to whom he is going to propose
- Jeremy Bobb as Mike Kershaw, a college literature professor with whom Beatrice is having an affair
- Brendan Sexton III as Horse, a homeless man whom Nadia helps out
- Rebecca Henderson as Lizzy, an artist and friend of Nadia and Maxine
- Ritesh Rajan as Ferran, a friend of Alan's who works at the deli
- Ken Beck as a paramedic
- Max Knoblauch as a paramedic
- Yoni Lotan as Ryan, a paramedic
- Burt Young as Joe, a tenant in Alan's apartment building
- Waris Ahluwalia as Wardog, Maxine's drug dealer
- David Cale as Dr. Daniel, a man who concocts the drugs that Wardog sells
- Devin Ratray as a deli customer whom Nadia interrupts as he is purchasing a lottery ticket
- Stephen Adly Guirgis as Peter, a client of Ruth's undergoing marital problems
- Tami Sagher as Shifra, a secretary for the rabbi at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue
- Jonathan Hadary as the rabbi at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue whom Nadia seeks out to ask questions about the building where her party was thrown
- Lillias White as Dr. Zaveri, Alan's mother
- Charisma Glasper as Jordanna, Lizzy's girlfriend
- JD Samson as a Postmates delivery person
- Michelle Buteau as a woman who pepper sprays Alan when she thinks he is stalking her.
- Jocelyn Bioh as Claire
- Mirirai Sithole as Audrey, Alan's neighbour
- Chloë Sevigny as Lenora Vulvokov, Nadia's mother with whom she had a difficult childhood
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"Nothing in This World Is Easy"||Leslye Headland||Story by : Natasha Lyonne & Leslye Headland & Amy Poehler|
Teleplay by : Leslye Headland
|February 1, 2019|
|After dying abruptly on the night of her 36th birthday, Nadia finds herself reliving the events of the night in a continuous time loop. Every time Nadia dies, she returns to the bathroom of her friend Maxine's loft, where Nadia's birthday party is being thrown.|
|2||"The Great Escape"||Leslye Headland||Natasha Lyonne & Amy Poehler||February 1, 2019|
|An increasingly frantic Nadia is convinced that she is hallucinating due to smoking one of Maxine's Israeli joints at her birthday party. She tracks down Maxine's drug dealer Wardog in order to find out what the joint was laced with.|
|3||"A Warm Body"||Leslye Headland||Allison Silverman||February 1, 2019|
|Nadia asks for John's help as her quest for answers leads her to a local synagogue. While searching for her cat Oatmeal, Nadia befriends a homeless man named Horse, and later encounters a mysterious man in a falling elevator.|
|4||"Alan's Routine"||Jamie Babbit||Cirocco Dunlap & Leslye Headland||February 1, 2019|
|The day before crossing paths with Nadia in the elevator, Alan plans to propose to his girlfriend Beatrice, only for her to break up with him. To make matters worse, Beatrice admits to cheating on Alan with her professor, Mike. Nadia tracks down Alan, since he is also experiencing time loops, but he accuses her of interfering with his routine.|
|5||"Superiority Complex"||Jamie Babbit||Jocelyn Bioh||February 1, 2019|
|Alan shows up at Nadia's birthday party and the two work together to figure out what is happening to them. Despite initially rebuffing Alan's theory that they are being punished for being bad people, Nadia sets out to make amends with John. Meanwhile, Alan confronts Mike about his affair with Beatrice.|
|6||"Reflection"||Jamie Babbit||Flora Birnbaum||February 1, 2019|
|In an effort to figure out how their lives are connected, Nadia helps Alan remember his first death as they retrace his steps. Alan eventually recalls he died as a result of suicide by jumping from the top of a building.|
|7||"The Way Out"||Leslye Headland||Story by : Allison Silverman|
Teleplay by : Allison Silverman & Leslye Headland
|February 1, 2019|
|With the steady disappearance of their loved ones, Nadia and Alan come up with a theory that the loops started because they neglected to help each other on the first night they died. Meanwhile, Nadia is haunted by memories of her troubled childhood.|
|8||"Ariadne"||Natasha Lyonne||Natasha Lyonne||February 1, 2019|
|Nadia and Alan find themselves trapped in two separate timelines, where they run into alternate, pre-loop versions of each other who are unaware of the future loops. They succeed at preventing each other's first deaths, and the episode ends with the implication the pair become friends in both timelines.|
The series was created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, all of whom also serve as executive producers. Headland wrote the first episode, and she and Lyonne also serve as writers for the series. Production companies involved with the series consist of Universal Television, Paper Kite Productions, Jax Media, and 3 Arts Entertainment.
Alongside the initial series order announcement, it was confirmed that Lyonne would star in the series. Alongside the premiere announcement, it was confirmed that Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Elizabeth Ashley, and Charlie Barnett had joined the main cast and that Chloë Sevigny, Dascha Polanco, Brendan Sexton III, Rebecca Henderson, Jeremy Bobb, Ritesh Rajan, and Jocelyn Bioh would make guest appearances. In March 2021, Annie Murphy was cast for the second season in an undisclosed role and capacity while Carolyn Michelle Smith joined the cast in a recurring role. In April 2021, Sharlto Copley joined the cast in an undisclosed role and capacity for the second season.
Principal photography for season one began on February 22, 2018, in New York City.
On June 11, 2019, Netflix renewed the series for a second season. In March 2020, filming for season two was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production began one year later in March 2021.
The song "Gotta Get Up" by American singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson was used as the "reset" song each time the character Nadia dies and is resurrected. Lyonne explained to The New York Times that in choosing the song she was struck by the "buoyant doomsday quality" of Nilsson's life. Other contenders for the reset song included "Not Tonight" by Lil' Kim, "Crazy Feeling" by Lou Reed and "No Fun" by The Stooges. Though Netflix finally obtained the usage rights to Nilsson's song, the cost of using it so many times took up a significant portion of the music budget. His estate also limited how many times the song could be used. According to music supervisor Brienne Rose, the production was able to "find a balance between the maximum number of uses and what the budget would allow." The "reset" song utilized for the character Alan was Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major".
On January 9, 2019, Netflix released the first trailer for the series. On January 23, 2019, the series held its official premiere at the Metrograph theater in New York City, New York. Those in attendance included series writer Jocelyn Bioh, Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler, Chloë Sevigny, Greta Lee, Dascha Polanco, Rosie O'Donnell, Danielle Brooks, Laura Prepon, and David Harbour.
The series has received widespread critical acclaim. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 97% approval rating with an average rating of 8.55 out of 10 based on 97 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Russian Doll may be stuck in a time loop, but this endlessly inventive series never repeats itself as it teeters on a seesaw of shifting tones – from fatally funny to mournfully sad – that is balanced with exhilarating moxie by an astonishing Natasha Lyonne." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the series a score of 88 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."
Alicia Lutes of IGN gave the first season a 10/10. Praising the series, she adds that it is "an inventive, unpredictable ride that will easily stand as one of the best shows of the year." In a positive review, Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall awarded the series 4 1⁄2 stars out of 5 and praised it saying, "That blend of tones, and the controlled mania of Lyonne's brilliant performance, makes Russian Doll feel like something wholly new, even as it cops to its many influences." The New York Times' James Poniewozik was similarly approving saying, "Russian Doll is lean and snappily paced; it even managed the rare feat, in the era of streaming-TV bloat, of making me wish for a bit more." Collider's Haleigh Foutch was equally enthusiastic giving the series a rating of 5 out of 5 stars and applauding it saying, "It's pure binge-watching magic; a show that's not only expertly designed to compel viewers to the next episode but invests just as much in the integrity of story and character." Time's Judy Berman described the series as "cerebral yet propulsive" and praised its many layers calling it, "2019's best new show to date."
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