The Great (TV series)
|Created by||Tony McNamara|
|Music by||Nathan Barr|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Running time||45-55 minutes|
|Distributor||Paramount Television Studios|
|Original release||May 15, 2020 –|
The Great is a 2020 comedy-drama television series described by its commissioner Hulu as 'anti-historical' loosely based on the rise to power of Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. All 10 episodes of the first season were released on Hulu on May 15, 2020. The series stars Elle Fanning as Empress Catherine II and Nicholas Hoult as the Emperor Peter III.
In July 2020, Hulu renewed the series for a second season.
The Great is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia's history. The series is fictionalized and portrays Catherine in her youth and marriage with Emperor Peter III (amalgamated with Peter II) focusing on the plot to kill her depraved and dangerous husband.
Cast and characters
- Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great
- Nicholas Hoult as Peter III of Russia
- Phoebe Fox as Marial
- Sacha Dhawan as Count Orlo
- Charity Wakefield as Georgina Dymova
- Gwilym Lee as Grigor Dymov
- Adam Godley as Archbishop "Archie"
- Douglas Hodge as General Velementov
- Belinda Bromilow as Aunt Elizabeth
- Richard Pyros as Count Raskolnikov
- Bayo Gbadamosi as Arkady
- Sebastian de Souza as Leo Voronsky
- Danusia Samal as Lady Antonia Svenska
- Louis Hynes as Vlad
- Florence Keith-Roach as Tatyana
- Jamie Demetriou as Doctor Chekov
- Christophe Tek as Tartar Nick
- Charlie Price as Ivan
- Alistair Green as Count Smolny
- Abraham Popoola as Alexei Rostov
- James Smith as Count Gorky
- Stewart Scudamore as Tolsten
- Phill Webster as a palace guard
- Adam Darlington as head footman
- Dustin Demri-Burns as Voltaire
- Christianne Oliveira as Countess Belanova
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"The Great"||Matt Shakman||Written for Television by : Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
|In the eighteenth century, a young and naïve Catherine gets married to the Peter III of Russia. Her ambitions and optimism shatter as she finds out about Peter's unserious, cruel and spiteful nature, and that he only married her for an heir. Catherine finds an unexpected friend in her maid, Marial. When Catherine discovers that women are not educated in Russia, she succeeds in securing funds with the permission of Peter to establish a school. But Peter burns the school as soon as he learns that the school was meant for girls. When Peter shoots the bear gifted to Catherine during a ball, she slaps him in front of everyone. Peter punches her in seclusion and warns her. Catherine, now being nothing more than a prisoner, decides to evade the castle with the help of Marial, but fails as Peter finds out. Disheartened, Catherine is about to slit her wrist when Marial informs her about a rule in Russia; if there is not an heir to an emperor, the throne will ultimately be given to the empress. Delighted, Catherine throws away the knife.|
|2||"A Fake Beard"||Colin Bucksey||Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
|As Catherine and Marial struggle to devise the murder of Peter, the latter suggests to use Orlo, a member of Peter's inner circle, by seducing him. Matters do not go as planned as Catherine fails to seduce Orlo and straightforwardly spills out her plan to him. When Peter apologises to Catherine for his prior behaviour, she declines. Meanwhile, Orlo endeavours in retaining the civilians' free will as Count Rostov is repulsive of having his beard shaved off in accordance with an edict. Catherine is being despised by the ladies at the court which, along with Catherine's lack of submission, enrages Peter who decides to kill her in a carriage accident. Archie warns her and she pretends to be affectionate and submissive to Peter, making him change his decision. She also learns about Peter's mother who was harsh towards him. As Catherine forces Orlo to cooperate with her for the sake of the country, he refuses but assures his confidence. When depraved Peter coerces Orlo to shave Rostov's beard, Orlo agrees to join forces with Catherine.|
|3||"And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great"||Bert & Bertie||Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
|Catherine and Orlo prepare manifestos for their new era when Peter brings a 'lover' for Catherine, Leo Voronsky, but she is reluctant to the notion. Orlo suspects Leo to be a spy for Peter, which Catherine declines to believe. Catherine asks Leo not to consummate and to pretend that they had a lovely night. The next day, Catherine assures Peter that she and Leo had a great night and he could let him go but Peter beats Leo up for not convincing her to keep him for long. Orlo and Marial suggest Catherine to leverage Ivan, Peter's half-brother, against him. Catherine succeeds in locating Ivan out with the help of Aunt Elizabeth, who is hidden in a secret room in the castle. Meanwhile, Peter is humiliated by his comrades for his lack of strategizing abilities. Catherine embarrasses Lady Svenska at ladies' tea in retaliation for hurting Marial, causing the ladies to turn on her. When Peter gives a speech about the remarkability of his father, he gets emotional when an officer mocks him. Encouraged by Catherine to bring forth his real emotions, he instead stabs the officer. Delighted, Peter allows Catherine to have a lover of her own choice, but Catherine, now taking an interest in Leo, lies to the latter that Peter did not let him go but she accepts him as her lover. As a result, she begins a passionate relationship with him.|
|4||"Moscow Mule"||Bert & Bertie||Tess Morris||May 15, 2020|
|Catherine and Leo pursue their love affair. News breaks about the patriarch, Bishop Ivan Illyich, leader of the Russian Orthodox church has passed and Peter must choose a new one by the following day. Catherine, Marial, and Orlo continue to plan for their new era, aiming to appoint Bishop Tarcinkus as the new church leader. Catherine is made aware of the horse-relations rumour Lady Svenska started and tries to make amends for political purposes. During the bishop selection, one bishop renounces Peter and dies. Meanwhile, Catherine devises to gain the other ladies' admiration through gifting faberge eggs. Lady Svenska invites Catherine to a tea with the rest of the ladies in which they push, kick, and belittle her. Peter instructs Archie to receive a vision from God to decide on who the new bishop shall be. He consumes psychedelic mushrooms and Catherine stumbles upon him as he is hallucinating. He believes her to be an angel and she tells him that he is the rightful bishop. At the party to celebrate Archie's new title, Catherine and Marial stage a slapping as a lesson to the other ladies, as advised by Marial herself and Aunt Elizabeth.|
|5||"War and Vomit"||Ben Chessell||James Wood||May 15, 2020|
|6||"Parachute"||Ben Chessell||Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
|Peter feels inspired to better himself after his brush with death. Elizabeth encourages Peter to sire an heir, leading him to seek out Catherine. They become more intimate, putting a strain on her relationship with Leo. Catherine uses Peter's newfound interest in her to encourage him to bring arts and sciences to Russia. Vlad teaches Peter about parachutes. Archie discourages Peter's pursuit of the arts and sciences and threatens Catherine, who retaliates. Orlo becomes lost in the woods and encounters soldiers. Archie puts a crow in Peter's room to scare him, angering Peter. Catherine asks Peter to reinstate Marial as a lady of the court and Peter refuses, revealing the reason of her demotion: her father committed necrophilia with Peter's mother's corpse. Catherine changes her plans for better Russia. Peter uses the parachute on a dog. Catherine celebrates this demonstration of science with hope for the future.|
|7||"A Pox on Hope"||Colin Bucksey||Tony McNamara and Gretel Vella||May 15, 2020|
|8||"Meatballs at the Dacha"||Colin Bucksey||Teleplay by : Tony McNamara|
Story by : Amelia Roper and Tony McNamara
|May 15, 2020|
|9||"Love Hurts"||Geeta Patel||Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
|10||"The Beaver's Nose"||Geeta Patel||Tony McNamara||May 15, 2020|
The series is based upon Tony McNamara's play revolving around Catherine the Great, which premiered at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2008. McNamara also wrote a film adaption of the play, "It had been a play and a film, and I was always struggling with the fact it was such a massive story for a film. I wanted to tell it as a story that goes for years and years." The series was initially pitched as having six seasons, having planned to introduce key historical figures in Catherine's life as the series continued.
On August 24, 2018, it was announced that Hulu was close to giving a pilot order to a miniseries about Catherine the Great. The series was written by Tony McNamara who also served as an executive producer alongside Elle Fanning and Marian Macgowan. Production companies involved with the pilot consist of Media Rights Capital, Echo Lake Entertainment, and Thruline Entertainment. On November 20, 2018, it was reported that Matt Shakman was directing the pilot. On February 11, 2019, it was announced during the Television Critics Association's annual winter press tour that Hulu had given the production a series order.
Alongside the initial pilot announcement, it was confirmed that Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult had been cast in the pilot's lead roles as Catherine the Great and her husband Peter III of Russia, respectively. In November 2018, it was announced that Phoebe Fox, Sacha Dhawan, Charity Wakefield, and Gwilym Lee had joined the cast of the pilot. In January 2020, Sebastian De Souza, Adam Godley, and Douglas Hodge were added to the cast. On May 14, 2021, Gillian Anderson was cast in a guest starring role as Johanna, Catherine's mother.
Principal photography for the pilot episode had commenced by November 2018 in York, England with other filming locations expected to include Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Hever in Kent. The main filming locations were Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and the Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy. The loggia on the lake at Hever Castle doubled as the location for a Russo-Swedish peace conference. The fields of the St Clere Estate near Sevenoaks in Kent were used to stage battle scenes in episodes five and seven. Filming for season two began on November 4, 2020 and ended on July 17, 2021. 
The series premiered in the United States on May 15, 2020. In Australia, all episodes were released on Stan on May 16. The series airs on Channel 4 and StarzPlay in the UK. StarzPlay also distribute the series in Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Latin America and Brazil. More.tv broadcasts the show in Russia, Sky in New Zealand, and Amazon Prime Video in Canada.
Hulu has described The Great as 'anti-historical' and the series' title sequences declare it to be an 'occasionally true story'. According to Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd, 'McNamara had jotted down some names, relationships and a few historical bullet points, torn up the paper, and started writing. And so must the viewer abandon himself to what's on the plate without a care to learning anything useful or even true about Russia or any of the real people represented here.'
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds an approval rating of 88% based on 83 critic reviews, with an average critic rating of 7.51/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Great can't quite live up to its namesake, but delicious performances from Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult and a wicked sense of humor make it a pretty good watch." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Awards and nominations
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