A Great TV Show To Watch After HBO's 'Catherine The Great'

Catherine the Great Helen Mirren
The Helen Mirren-led “Catherine the Great” miniseries has made its regal premiere on HBO. It will span four episodes, all of which will air every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET until the finale on November 11. Catherine the Great needs little introduction. She was the Russian Empress from 1762 to 1796.

Helen Mirren will take on the eponymous role as the HBO/Sky Atlantic series focuses on Catherine’s reign and her impact on the Russian empire in the 18th century. “Catherine the Great” will also pay close attention to Catherine’s love affair with Russian military leader, Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke).

If you have not already seen the trailer for “Catherine the Great,” you can take a peek at all of the royal intrigues getting teased with the backing of a glorious soundtrack (seriously, what is this piece?) as they get teased, here:

What did you think? If you are like me and you cannot get enough costume dramas, “Catherine the Great” looks ready to quench your thirst. Helen Mirren is an extraordinary actress, and the production quality speaks for itself. The mini seems nothing shy of ambitious. That said, if you are also like me, you are curious about what might have brought you here.

The TV show that you need to watch before checking out HBO’s rendition of Catherine the Great’s life. That would be the majestic Russian-language series, “Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great.” The first two seasons of the alluring series are currently streaming on Amazon Prime with English subtitles. Season 1 follows Ekaterina’s rise, while Season 2 chronicles her battle to maintain her power.

Ekaterina’s relationship with Grigory Potemkin is also covered in the second season. “Catherine the Great” will make it its primary focus. I am unclear on how much emphasis the HBO drama will put on Catherine’s rise to power or her relationship with her son, Pavel. The latter of which is integral to “Ekaterina.” It takes a lot of effort to explore her relationship with him and his father.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of Ekaterina’s relationship with her husband and predecessor ruler, Pyotr III Fyodorovich, is crucial to understanding the power player she became. Their marriage was…complicated. As was Ekaterina’s relationship with Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Yelizabeta Petrovna. “Ekaterina” depicts their dynamic as being love/hate with a constant dash of mentorship.

Peter the Great’s legacy also weighs heavily in the world that Ekaterina experiences and ends up building herself. He has long since passed when she arrives in Russia, but the country he left behind serves as a constant reinforcement of his impact. Remember, he and his granddaughter-in-law both have Great in their titles.

“Ekaterina” is a marvel to behold and a definite must-binge. It takes 10 episodes to tell the story of Ekaterina, aka Catherine’s introduction to the Russian court and her rise to the throne. The second season is comprised of 12 episodes that delve into considerable detail regarding her reign. HBO’s “Catherine the Great” will use 4 installments. Albeit, probably covering a smaller timeframe.

The vast period that “Ekaterina” covers only adds to its pedigree as essential viewing. It is an outstanding series overall, and it is led by a marvelous actress in Marina Aleksandrova, who gives a tour-de-force performance as the German Princess turned iconic Russian Empress. Plus, to hear and see the Russian perspective on their late ruler is vital.

As for the romance, the dynamic portrayed between Catherine and Potemkin in HBO’s “Catherine the Great” seems familiar. The push and pull between Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, as depicted in “Victoria,” comes across similarly. “Ekaterina” gives a highly romantic take on hers and Potemkin’s relationship. However, this viewer enjoyed Ekaterina’s relationship with Orlov in Season 1 more by comparison.

“Catherine the Great” should give fans of costume dramas a lot to contemplate along with a desire to dive deeper into its royal subject. Watching “Ekaterina” will only improve that education as it delivers it in a staggeringly entertaining form. The series is an absolute knockout.

“Catherine the Great” premieres Sunday, October 21, at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

[Featured Image by Hal Shinnie/HBO]