Friday, August 12, 2011

Russian Dolls: Episode 1 “Mama Dearest” - Recap and Review

These are the only Russian Dolls I want to see right now!

I was looking forward to watching Russian Dolls, despite the bad reviews that it got from various newspapers, and it got plenty. I am sorry to have to say that the reviews all hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. If you missed the show, this is what happened and my review follows.

The episode opens with Marina complaining about her mother-in-law’s, Eva’s, “Grandma Pageant” and she pretty much does that for the entire show. She says, “I have no choice, but to go.” “Why do I have to waste my whole Sunday? It’s just a stupid, local Brighten Beach pageant!” she says. Renata disagrees, she thinks Eva can be anything she wants to be and if she sees herself as young and adorable, that’s what she is. The other woman, says that Marina thinks “she is the centerpiece of the universe and everyone should revolve around her.” Marina says of Eva, “she is just her husband’s mother, she’s nobody to me.” Then Marina talks about how the Russian culture teaches you to respect your parents.

There is a lot of skipping around to different cast members throughout the episode, maybe it’s the creator’s way of introducing us to all of them, but I found it to be a bit choppy. . We meet Diana, who is 23, but came to this country as a young girl. She is dating Paul, who is Spanish. In the Russian culture it is a big deal to date a non-Russian. The next scene is at the Russian bathhouse when Russians apparently go to relax, get together with friends and hang out in their bathing suits. There are a few shots of the younger cast members playing in the pool while the older members are at a table watching.

Anna says there are no decent guys out there. Anna is a model and has her own modeling school. She wants to be married at around 33 years old and freeze her eggs for later use. Anastasia, Diana’s friend and roommate, is not ready for kids. Eddie makes a wise crack to Albert, “Russian girls like to flirt, but never give it up.”

Eva gets ready for the grandma pageant. It’s a talent contest and she wants to do a belly dance. She has many outfits to choose from for her performance. Marina feels that once you are in your 50’s you do not wear revealing clothing. She says that Eva is embarrassing the whole family.

Diana gets advice from her friend Anastasia about her boyfriend situation. Her parents want her to be with a successful Russian man. Diana is 23 and wants to have a baby by the time she is 25 so she can be a “hot mama.” Diana, who is very beautiful, says she likes plastic surgery and botox. Diana’s parents are strict and very traditional. Anastasia doesn’t think she should tell her parents about Paul.

Back to Marina! She is still concerned about Eva embarrassing her at the pageant. The we hear Eva’s point of view. Eva is a 56 year old grandmother, who was once a Russian engineer. It was always her dream to be on stage and perform. She says she is so happy she has this opportunity to make her dream come true.

At Diana and Anastasia’s house, Diana’s mother drops in to pay a visit and help her make borsht. It looks like Diana doesn’t even know her way around her own kitchen. As her mom makes the borsht, she drops a few “hints” for Diana. A woman has to be “all,” a housekeeper and a cook. Diana asks how her mother would feel if she brought home a Spanish guy. Her mother has no clue Diana and Paul have been seeing each other a few times a week. Her mother says she would be upset. She tells her daughter that at 23, she needs to be thinking about her future. She wants to see her with a Russian man of the same culture…culture is very important. She tells her not to hurt her or the family.

Finally, the “Grandma Pageant!” Marina makes critical remarks the entire time. Eva does her belly dance and it was a real crowd pleaser. Marina is complaining that the pageant is too long and “it went on forever.” Her daughter is tired and cranky, so she leaves. Marina says, “It was horrible, 5 hours of torture.” But, Eva wins the contest for best talent and says it broke her heart that the family left. Marina says she would never go back again (to another pageant).

The episode ends with a dinner between Diana and Paul. They are eating tuna tartar, Paul hates it. She wants to talk to him about being Russian. She enjoys spending time with him, but asks if he thought there was a future for them down the road, like marriage. Paul says yes, he wouldn’t be going out with her otherwise. Then she bluntly says she can’t be with him because he isn’t Russian. Her family wants her to be with a Russian man. She breaks up with him, says she feels bad and that’s the way the cookie crumbles, but she has to be with a Russian man.

Now for my two cents! The short review is “Oy Vey!” If you are tired of reading, end here. This goes especially for Marina, who doesn’t like “long” things.

I hope that this episode is not a reflection of what is to come. Marina’s incessant complaining about the pageant and her disrespect of her mother-in-law was hard to listen too. Apparently she has learned nothing from her own culture about respecting parents. Eva is nothing to her??? Really? She made her opinion known at the very beginning of the show, was it necessary to keep it up the entire time? She wasn’t at all supportive of Eva, knowing full well that this was a dream of hers. Her husband, Michael, never once tells her to knock it off. Wasn’t the pageant held at their restaurant? Weren’t they making money from all who attended? Come on, give me a break. Her behavior was rude, disrespectful and obnoxious.

Anna doesn’t need to freeze her eggs just yet. She is young and 33 is still young enough to have children the old fashioned way. I know because that’s when I had mine. I have to agree with her comment that there are no decent guys out there. I felt the same way at her age. All guys seemed like immature jerks. My advice to her is not to think about guys as marriage material right now. Pursue your career and goals. If the right guy comes along, she will know it. Otherwise, she can focus on finding the right guy in eight years or so. If that doesn’t work, go to a sperm bank and be a successful single mother.

Diana, hmmmm, she knew full well that a Spanish guy was not going to be her family’s first choice for her as a husband. It’s part of the culture and ingrained in these women from birth. This is why they live in an ethnic community. They want to keep their culture and traditions preserved. Diana knows this, so what’s up with Paul? In my opinion, I think the show went out and got her a “Spanish boyfriend” actor just so they could make a point of addressing this issue. I think this was a little too scripted. The Russians, at least on this show, want their children to marry Russians, period end of story. We all know that; Diana should have known that. The way she breaks up with her boyfriend is cruel and thoughtless. She is dismissive. “Oh well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Really Diana? Do you expect guys to line up to take you out knowing at any time you might announce their unsuitableness; maybe they aren’t Russian or Russian enough, maybe they don’t make enough money, maybe they aren’t good looking enough? Where do you draw the line? When does a person’s character count for something?

I have to end with Marina and Eva. Marina seems very selfish and self centered. This pageant is all about her and how embarrassed she is going to be of Eva. She already acts like the “diva” of the cast, but she has a very long, long way to go to be considered a “diva” in the entertainment field. Having an attitude, jewelry and designer clothes does not make you a diva, it makes you a diva “wanna be” at best. Diva’s have some kind of talent to bring to the table. I saw no talent in this episode, at least not from Marina.

Eva is another story. She is very likable. Her reason for doing the show she says is to show other, older, divorced women that they can still follow their dreams. Their lives aren’t over. Find something you are passionate about and pursue it. That is the message that Eva sent and it was well received by me. I am glad she won her pageant and I am looking forward to seeing more of Eva. The most touching moment of last night was, after the pageant, when Eva said that it broke her heart that her family left. Eva, all I can say to you is, don’t let Marina break your spirit! You keep pursuing your dreams!

Finally, the cast members all consider themselves reality show stars already. But I want to question another “star,” why was the “star of David” not mentioned? By that I mean, we are only getting part of the picture, the Russian part. The reality is that many, if not all, these cast members are Jewish. This is still a reality show, is it not? Did that piece of reality slip someone’s mind? Don’t you think we should know that? Are they trying to send a message that the Jewish element is irrelevant? I’d love an explanation for that. 

What did you think of the show? We'd love to know!

Watch entire episode here: Whole episode

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