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Friday, October 12, 2018

The Romanoffs 1.1: The Violet Hour: Compelling, Anti-Binge Watchable Comedy of Manners

I've been a fan of Matthew Weiner's since The Sopranos and Mad Men.  So has my wife.  I even read and rave-reviewed his 2017 novella Heather, The Totality.  So of course we were going to watch The Romanoffs, the new anthology series on Amazon Prime, now consisting of eight standalone 90-minute episodes connected by the sinew of each episode tells the story of a different character or characters who think they are descendants of the royal Russian family, all or most of whom were slain by the Bolsheviks in 1918.   The first two episodes were put up today, and the rest will be shown on a weekly basis.

All ninety minutes of The Violet Hour were excellent.  The story takes place in Paris, featuring Anushka (who claims she is a descendant), her American nephew Greg, his French girlfriend Sophie, and Anushka's caretaker Hajar, who was born in Paris and whose parents came from North Africa.  There's comedy, profundity, passion, and surprises all packaged in this tale of how Anushka is determined to see that her Romanoff bloodline survives into the next generation.

The genre is so original it's hard to classify.  It has elements of Downton Abbey and Woody Allen.  It would have been a good standalone movie, and someone said somewhere that these episodes could be watched and considered as individual movies.  But the fact that Weiner has tied them all together by this unlikely thread makes them all the more appealing - or, at least, that's what I thought before watching the first episode and even more strongly now.

Weiner's decision not to show them all at once certainly supports the each episode is a movie structure.  As such, The Romanoffs could be considered the first deliberately anti-binge-watchable series on a streaming service.  I'm not sure how I feel about that - we're going to watch the second the episode as soon as I post this review.  I know we'd want to watch the third, if not right after the second, at least tomorrow night,

But The Violet Hour was so good we'll be happy to wait for that third, next week.

See also The Romanoffs 1.2: The Royal We: A Walk on the Dark Side  ... The Romanoffs 1.3: House of Special Purpose: Meta Ghost Story ... The Romanoffs 1.4: Expectation: Unfulfilled ... The Romanoffs 1.5: Bright and High Circle: Music and Abuse ... The Romanoffs 1.6: Panorama: The Royal Disease ... The Romanoffs 1.7: End of the Line: The Adoption Racket ... The Romanoffs 1.8:  The One that Hold Everything: Writer on a Train

It all starts in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn walks off the set
of The Misfits and begins to hear a haunting song in her head,
"Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

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