The show reminds us not to ignore your family. They won’t be there forever.
Hey, Dad (and anyone else who might be reading, sure, why not): There’s this TV show I’d like to talk to you about. You’ll need a Netflix subscription, and I’m not sure if that’s in your octogenarian-on-Social-Security budget, but maybe I could arrange to accidentally blurt out my password sometime.
The show is called Russian Doll, and there are now two whole seasons to catch up on. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler, critics universally acclaimed season one, an exhaustively entertaining riff on Groundhog Day, with master New York cynic Nadia (the incomparable Lyonne) looping through her inevitably fatal 36th birthday party over and over. I know you enjoyed Groundhog Day immensely and that’s probably enough for you, but it’s the new season that I really want to discuss.
A few uneventful years have passed since season one. More or less the same Nadia, who’s about to turn 40, greets us. Understandably a little wary of birthday parties, Nadia’s planning for a quiet get-together when she stumbles onto a train that transports her into the past–her pregnant mother’s troubled past, specifically. Nadia pops up in 1982 and proceeds to ignore every common-sense lesson about time travel, frantically trying to alter her mother’s trajectory, save the family fortune and give herself a less-traumatic childhood, with nary a thought for the metaphysical consequences.
The results are simultaneously heartrending and hilarious, in a way I know would resonate with you. So would the nonstop smoking and the raspy, wisecracking Nadia, who has a quip for every occasion. Lyonne is a captivating wrecking ball of a performer whose observational mutterings could make a phone book compelling, and while nothing was going to top the madcap time-loop plotting of season one, season two does indeed find some new ways to bend the mind. All this and some morals you’d appreciate, too, delivered organically in a way that feels earned rather than some obvious Hallmark inanity.
The first moral, at the heart of the story, goes something like this: Whether or not you can change the past, you can definitely change how you see it, finding empathy for people who were every bit as hard up for love and luck as you’ve ever felt. It’s a good moral! But there’s a bonus moral, and that’s the one I really want to talk to you about.
But I can’t. Because my phone rang while I was bingeing this show in preparation for this review, and I ignored it at the time, and afterwards it was late and I was tired so I figured I’d just call back the next day, and the person I didn’t call back right away was you and you were dead before the next morning.
That makes Russian Doll sting a little harder for me, since the second moral of the story is essentially “don’t get so caught up in your own bullshit that you ignore the people close to you, because they won’t be there forever,” which is so to the point that it practically feels personal. It’s something we’re all guilty of from time to time, sure, but you less than most–you were great at keeping in touch, maintaining friendships from all walks of life for decades. It’s a lesson I should have learned from you instead of a TV show. I was too caught up in my own bullshit.
So just in case you’re reading this: sorry about that. If whatever afterlife you ended up in has Netflix, check out Russian Doll; that infectious guffaw of yours will have everyone rolling in no time.