The Romanoffs is here. Matthew Weiner’s first big post-Mad Men television project for Amazon is big and star-studded unlike just about anything else on television, in good ways and… not as good ways. Each episode is a stand-alone story, with all new characters and action, with the only through-line being the Russian royal Romanoff family, from whom at least one of the main characters is descended.
Every week throughout the season, we’ll have a piece that breaks down each episode using numbers, because you can’t argue with numbers and we don’t like getting yelled at. The only exception will be this week. This week we will be discussing the first two episodes because Amazon released them both at once. This is their fault, not ours.
Number of Romanoffs: Dozens
This figure is inflated by the Romanoff/Romanov cruise ship family reunion in the second episode. There were really three.
In the first episode, we had two Romanoffs: Anushka (Marthe Keller), an aging woman in Paris who has a stunning apartment and a habit of berating staff; and Greg (Aaron Eckhart), her nephew, who would very much like the apartment when she passes away. Greg has an awful fiancée. Anushka has a new Middle Eastern aide. Do Anushka and her new aide, Hajar (Ines Melab), eventually develop a relationship based on respect after a rough start that features Anushka saying terrible entitled racist things to Hajar’s face and behind her back? Yes. Does Greg sleep with Hajar and get her pregnant and leave his fiancée? Yes. Is it all kind of weird and not great, like a B- Woody Allen movie with stronger chins? Yes. Seriously, Aaron Eckhart’s chin should be in a museum. It looks like it’s made of marble.
The second episode had one main Romanoff, Michael, played by Corey Stoll. He’s married to Shelly, played by Kerry Bishé, and it is not going well. He wants to sit around, she was to go hiking, they’re in therapy about it all. The main thrust of the episode is them going on separate paths: him staying home to serve on a jury in a murder trial, her going on the aforementioned glamorous Russian cruise. The both meet people. He has a creepy suave tryst with a mysterious British woman on the jury (Janet Montgomery), she almost has a tryst with a mysterious guy on the cruise (Noah Wylie). He kind of melts down about it. It’s not great. This will come up later.
Number of minutes each episode ran: 84, 86
This is, in my opinion, too many minutes. Especially for the content we were dealing with. It was all somehow too much for an episode of television and not enough for a movie and it ended up floating in this weird middle ground where it wasn’t satisfying in either direction. I’m not ruling out an improvement or all of it growing on me but I could really do with fewer minutes.
It’s fun to picture anyone else pitching this show, by the way. “So its a loosely connected series about descendants of a Russian royal family and there are no recurring characters or dragons and every episode is 90 minutes long and costs $10 million and… hello? Hello? We must have gotten disconnected.”
Number of cigarettes smoked: So many
Every character in the first two episodes smoked cigarettes, some of them constantly. Janet Montgomery’s character, Michele, a former ballerina and thrill-seeker, smokes so many cigarettes that her lungs must look like abandoned coal furnaces. This all has very little to do with anything but considering Mad Men was a very cigarette-y show too, it feels important to note.