Here’s a confession. My daughter Velvet and I are addicted to bad reality TV shows, which is out of character for us both.
I’m meant to be the brainy intellectual/witty writer type, and she is supposed to be the outdoorsy/horsey type. We hide it well, but catch us on a rainy Friday evening, chances are we are curled up on the squishy sofa working out way through back episodes of “Jerseylicious,” “SuperNanny” or my personal favorite, “Clean House.”
Which is why we were both so excited for the launch of Lifetime’s new reality series, “Russian Dolls,” which chronicles the lives of a number of Russian émigrés to New York’s Brighton Beach. We mixed up some cocktails (gin and olives for me, ginger ale and pomegranate liqueur for Velvet) and settled in.
Readers…. what a letdown! The Gatsby this ain’t. Not that I didn’t know that if there is anything worse than a vapid dyev in stilettos, it’s a vapid dyev in stilettos who has been air lifted to NYC or Laaaaaaaaaaannnndon, but “Russian Dolls” hits an all time new low. Even this writer, who spends a fairly hefty portion of her working hours poking fun at contemporary Russian culture, was horrified:
Most of this week’s episode centered around Anastasia (which is pronounced by all and sundry like the cartoon Princess: Anna-STAY-ZH-ah instead of Anna-stass-ee-ah) and her mother Ida talking over salat Olivier (and who gave that particular culinary disaster an entry visa to the USA I’d like to know?)
“What you want say to me?” asks Ida about Anastasia’s possible career moves,
“Speech, Ma…I’m doing speech,” pouts Anastasia, running her acrylic nails through her ironed hair.
“The counselor, she thinks I should do law.”
“And how you repay loans?” wails Ida.
“Ma! Just leave me alone,” explodes Anastasia.
Mad Men it ain’t.
Then there were the nervous jitters of 47-year old Renata (who looked like she was addicted to Valium) getting ready to belt out Alla Pugacheva hits at the opening of Brighton Beach’s newest club “1001 Nights,” under the Svengali-esque coaching of her husband Boris. Next week, we will be meeting Sveta who is, according to the voice over, “Biggest Bitch in Brighton,” (which has to be saying a whole bunch) while she launches a jewelry line.
“This is embarrassing,” confessed Velvet, “These are like my people.”
Not if I can help it…they’re not.
И так Readers,
Did you see “Russian Dolls?” if so, what did you think? Do we need to get up a petition to Hillary Clinton? Could Vladimir Putin express his disapproval and get it off the air? Does it bear any resemblance to émigré life in America?
What you people don’t realize is that it is all you “angry Russians” that are so outraged about this show that provide the example for negative stereotypes. This show is about real people with real lives, and the fact that so many self professed Russians want so eagerly to throw them under the bus so to speak looks far worse than any faults that the cast members display on the show. If you are really concerned with how Americans perceive Russians to be then you should quit with all the hate filled rants that you are spewing on the blogs about the show. On the show “The Jersey Shore” the players have done far worse and embarrassing things and it has not negatively affected what Americans think of Italians one bit. The difference is that the Italian people here in America know better than to “look a gift horse in the mouth” Americans have a saying “There is no such thing as bad publicity” You need to get over your foolish pride and arrogance and be thankful that this show will bring about more awareness to the plight of Eastern European immigrants living in the US. Das vadanya comrades.
I agree. Live and let live. So they are shallow, self-obsessed girls. That outrage just betraying multitudes of complexes and insecurities many Russians have. Why the Americans don’t care about vile Gerry Springer shows, or Housewives of Beverly Hills,- I still can’t figure out are these women real or not?
Actually my conclusin is that tose women in Russia dolls took Housewives of Beverly hills as inspiration, they definitely aspire to be like them, they are limited only by finances. But why the outrage? Don’t like them? Let people be who they want to be.
Many thanks for leaving your thoughts about this post. I am not actually Russian myself, though, as you can glean from my blog’s home page, I am married to one. I’ve been a keen observer of Russia and the Russians for about twenty years now, which is why I was intrigued to watch your show. I’m afraid I didn’t catch any of the “plight of Eastern European immigrants” living in the US, unless you include the fact that they still have to eat salat Olivier, which is very serious. Perhaps the producers are building up the pathos? We’ll watch with interest!
I must say, with all respect to Mr. Stark, I too was not aware of such a plight for emigre’s, as I am also married to such a long suffering former citizen of Russia. He seems rather content here now, with his own business, a luxury car, property and a highly accommodating British wife, who has never dared to serve suspicious salat Olivier. I am also highly averse to pickled things and the rather more rank varities of dried fish found at the local Russian stores. Perhaps this is said plight to which you refer so passionately? Looking forward to the next, uh, episode.
I thought it was entertaining guilty pleasure 🙂 completely brainless and trashy and not representative of ALL immigrant Russians. They had to make this show appealing to Americans too though. In general, appealing to people who watch every run of America’s Next Top Model and Jersey Shore and not read Dostoyevskiy and Tolstoy in their free time– what can we really expect? I’ll keep on watching– gives me 20 minutes of totally brainless activity 🙂
Oh and thanks for your post! I was hoping you’d write soon 🙂
I like your point about the Top Model versus Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy! I think you are right about the mindless 20 minutes. Must think of something I can do with my hands during that…knit, or clean string beans? hmmm….
Masha you are so kind! Been on hiatus but getting things back in place for the start of the school year and back to normal working hours! Much new stuff coming up, including a brand new site! Stay tuned!
I watched American tv show with American family who claimed that soon the war will start and they were preparing themselves to survive. The family was eating only raw meat, keeping in containers a lot of water and food. Parents were against schools as the most important skills are hunting, growing vegetables and that kind of things they were teaching children.
Of course I know that in American not each family is like this but tv shows should be weird, shocking, funny, once more weird. It is our fault, we expect to see that kind of things. It is not about immigrants, it is about us, most of people prefer to watch weird tv shows that read a boook.
Learning about other countries from tv shows has no sense.
Hey Jennifer…nice to hear from you again! As an old lady who remembers the original black and white entertaining programs with one commercial, this addition to the current trend of reality junk, bizarre game shows,and purging talk shows, fits right in on the daily tv schedules. But then I was also appalled a couple of years ago while reading Oleg Jankovskij’s obituary on a Russian site that there were several pop-ups of very buxom
(delicately stated) women looking for American husbands. Ending this exploitative trash seems as futile as world peace.
Indeed, Sphinx, there are a ton of shows like the one you describe! TV is a an odd conduit of culture.
Hi Marilyn: I know what you mean about the pop ups — that’s one of the big reasons that I don’t want to monetize. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus as I’m rolling out some new platforms in the autumn! Nice to have you back as a reader!
Hence, the problem.
Hi Jen, WOW! I like the replies almost as much as your blog! Not being one for reality TV, I will now have to check out Russian Dolls (at least once) when I see it listed. We in Canada have to wait for new TV shows; just like having surgery!
Yes, we have a very interesting exchange going on here today. I’m giving some thought to posting a little something on the perils of destination weddings….
Good one! I will be anticipating that!
I confess: I watched it while in the US (different episode). I kept shouting to The Spouse and kids, “This is hilarious!” No one was eager to share my delight, however.
You are, of course, the classiest Beet in the whole wide world! I laughed too…but at them, you know, not with them. Big difference.
You embolden me…
I watched it too. You are right that Russians should’t be offended by this show, especially since most of people on the show are not from Russia.
Good post. I agree with you…this is just mindless, offensive, time filling television. Great thinkers like Tony Stark have taken television to the new heights where its content soars with the turkeys (no offense meant to turkeys). Good to see you back. I love you writing. My wife is from Novosibirsk…enjoy the humor surrounding Russian life. Thanks.
We may have to actually find a way to watch an episode of this, here in our house in the ‘hood. What with one of us a bit starving for some Russian anything.
Glad you are back, writing and in this part of the world. Come on down now, ya heah?
Not sure this should be the first thing someone starving for Russian anything should be. But would love to get together!
Thanks Matt! Appreciate the complement and always fun to hear from someone else who is enjoying a “mixed marriage.”
That is a very good point I was a tad hesitant to bring up.
Oh dear. Now I want to see it, although I think I would probably have to keep the husband away from it.
I have to confess to a strong liking for salat olivier. I did rethink this when I was describing it to some foreigners and was forced to confess that a main component was frankfurters. I mean, it doesn’t sound good, does it? But, no, still like it.
Clearly, I am the target audience for the programme then.
As a blogger who fearlessly features plasticine and Q-Tip body parts on her platform, I think perhaps it is a little slow for you, but, as Masha above suggests, have a 20 minute break and enjoy!!
We were much curious and by clicking on Tovarisch’ Tony, we found ourselves at RD’s FB page and behold! Links to entire episodes online.
I was enjoying the Brooklyn/Jersey/Ukrainian accent – it was more interesting than ironed hair and aerosol tanline-less tans.
So having left my brain on bedside table, now that we watched an episode I have reunited with brain and can go back to… sleep.
Thanks for the enlightenment and it is so good to have you back! Thank you very large!!!
I had forgotten about the show until I saw your post. Sat down with the wife (Russian) and daughter (she grew up for the most part in Moscow) last night to watch the 3 episodes available. I would have to say it wasn’t as bad as I expected. We know plenty of Russians and 2nd generation immigrants here in the US, and I wouldn’t say that what is portrayed is too far out of line – it is reality TV after all so some things are bound to be exaggerated no matter what. Actually the girls really enjoyed it if anything. You can tell everyone is struggling to keep the dialog in English though – some of the parents apparently don’t speak more than a few words.
I’m astonished your better half let you do that.
Marc, lovely to hear from you! Intrigued on your take — and more importantly your wife and daughter’s take on the show. My emigre friends are all horrified. The dialog is a howl, though, isn’t it?
So you forced me to Google “salat Olivier”. Nicely done. I’m on your team here – Any recipe that begins “1 lb bologna” will not make it into my repertoire.
Nice to see you back!
It is very tedious, is it not, to have a writing colleague who does nothing but describe mayonaise based salads? And I agree, bologna does not kick a recipe off to the best start!
As always, a great post. I must admit that I had somehow anticipated what this show would be like just because I met a few people from Brighton Beach through my relatives who lived there. Pretty accurate representation. But the show ( I saw only the first episode and not planning to watch any more) still seems kinda fake. They all speak English (awful English but still English) when in reality they speak ONLY Russian to each other. More than in any other “reality”shows (mostly all kinds of “Wives”) everything is done for the camera. Anyway,I was very happy when my son who just visited his sister working in Moscow and who caught a glimpse of the show told me :”Thanks, mom, for leaving Russia and settling in Queens not Brooklyn”.
Very nice post. Love your blog, big fan. Keep it coming!