TIME

A Favourite writer makes Catherine Great again

IN 1744, SOPHIE VON ANHALT-ZERBST—THE DAUGHTER OF A broke Prussian prince—traveled to Russia, wed a man destined to become Emperor Peter III and was rechristened Catherine. Her husband was a boorish alcoholic, the relationship a gauntlet of humiliation. Both spouses took lovers. And mere months into a reign that began in 1762, his brilliant wife forced him to abdicate in a bloodless coup (though he was subsequently assassinated). One of Russia’s most influential rulers, Catherine the Great reigned for more than 34 years.

It’s kind of a funny story: a penniless young woman bides her time in a terrible arranged marriage until certainly sees the humor in it. As creator of Hulu’s he offers another droll, raunchy yet sneakily insightful account of 18th century court intrigue. It isn’t quite the perfectly paced masterpiece that movie was; some episodes drag, including a smallpox romp that’s more tiresome than timely. Still, its witty dialogue and lively performances yield a sharp, fun dramedy.

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