The Great: Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning star in new period drama

The Great: everything you need to know about Channel 4’s must-watch TV series

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If you loved The Favourite, then you’re definitely going to love this star-studded TV show.

Updated on 11 January 2021: TV continues to reign supreme in the age of coronavirus, so it makes sense that we’re all craving some royally good entertainment.

Enter the fray, then, a satirical star-studded drama which gleefully describes itself as the “occasionally true story” of Catherine the Great, charting her rise from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history.

Oh yes, you better believe that we’re talking about Channel 4’s The Great, aka the TV show that’s winning hearts left, right, and centre on Twitter.

“Move right past Netflix’s Bridgerton (Sally Webster’s daughter is the lead role!!) and move onto The Great,” one fan of the series tweeted over the weekend.

“It’s magnificent TV and very funny in parts.”

Another tweeted: “I’m enjoying The Great on Channel 4 tonight. It stars Nicholas Houston. If you observe him carefully on this performance he’d make a brilliant Tony Blair if they ever made a Rise & Fall Of Blair film or series.”

“Anyone else watching The Great on Channel 4?” asked another. “It is very good (and very naughty).”

And Stylist’s own Hollie Richardson tweeted: “Huzzah! am VERY into The Great. And that’s my sunday right there.”

As we said, people are into The Great in a very big way,

But, if you’ve yet to watch an episode and need further convincing, don’t worry.

Here’s everything you need to know about the series…

What’s the plot of The Great?

As mentioned, this show is is all about Catherine the Great. As in, yes, the longest-reigning female ruler in Russian history. But, while we may think we know everything there is to know about the so-called “Messalina of the Neva”, this show winds things back to when she was just Catherine the Nothing. 

Just a lost teenage girl, shipped into a strange country for an arranged – and extremely ill-fated – marriage to Emperor Peter III.

Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in The Great (2020)
Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in The Great (2020)

As the official synopsis for The Great (which is yet another outstanding Hulu original) reads: “[This show tells the tale of] an idealistic, romantic young girl, who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter.

“Hoping for love and sunshine, she finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military, and get the court onside.”

Easy, right?

Who makes up the cast of The Great?

The series stars Elle Fanning as “Catherine the Nothing”, and Nicholas Hoult as her (horrible) husband Peter III. 

Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan, Sebastian de Souza, Bayo Gbadamosi, and Belinda Bromilow also star in the series, which was met with acclaim when it debuted in the US via Hulu and Starzplay earlier this year.

Is there a trailer for The Great?

The Great is directed by Matt Shakman, who is perhaps best known for his work on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Fargo, and Game Of Thrones.

So, yeah, you better believe that the trailer is giving us serious The Favourite vibes.

Check it out:

How many episodes of The Great will there be?

Season one is comprised of 10 episodes.

  • Episode 1. The Great
  • Episode 2. The Beard
  • Episode 3. And You Sir, Are No Peter the Great
  • Episode 4. Moscow Mule
  • Episode 5. War and Vomit
  • Episode 6. Parachute
  • Episode 7. A Pox On Hope
  • Episode 8. Meatballs at the Dacha
  • Episode 9. Love Hurts
  • Episode 10. The Beaver’s Nose

What are people saying about The Great?

People are seriously into this genre-bending, anti-historical ride through 18th-century Russia, which has led to it scoring an 88% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Reality is rarely as funny as this sparkling period satire, set in mid-18th century Russia amid a sneaky coup d’état that plays out like a Scooby gang caper (with wigs),” promises The Boston Globe’s review.

Reason Online, meanwhile, has praised the TV show for being “historically bonkers, but so witty it will make your brain melt.”

And Starburst promises: “This is a show that you will want to binge, but we firmly recommend that you don’t; it’s strong stuff in places and we advise that you take your time and enjoy it.”

This writer, though? Well, in my early review of the show for Stylist Loves, I fell head-over-heels for this show’s reinvention of the period drama. Because, while the sumptuous costumes and sets are still there, The Great ensures that stuffily exact historical reenactments have been swapped in favour of biting wit and sublime tragicomedy

“You can tell from the get-go that this is the work of McNamara, because, much like The Favourite before it, The Great keeps up a deliciously sardonic tone throughout,” reads the review. 

“And, whether layered over scenes of searing drama or utter mayhem, it’s this which gives the show its edge. 

“I’ll admit that Hoult steals the show on numerous occasions, thanks to his trademark blend of pomp and ridiculousness. Fanning’s portrayal of a mutinous young woman on the brink of greatness, though, feels wholly relatable, too. Especially if you’ve ever been manterrupted mid-meeting.”

And when will The Great be available to watch on TV?

The Great, following its successful May 2020 premiere on Hulu and Starzplay, is now airing weekly at 9pm on Sunday via Channel 4.

If you can’t wait between episodes, though, you can stream the limited series in its entirety via All 4.

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Please note that this article was originally published in May 2020, but has been update with new information throughout.

Images: Hulu

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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