Starring Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult as her husband, Emperor Peter, this zany, comedic series follows Catherine’s rise from young bride to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history.
The anachronistic show blends “occasional” historical facts with fiction, a genre made popular by shows like Apple TV+’s Dickinson, and the royal film biopic The Favourite starring Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (currently playing another monarch in The Crown cast).
Read on for everything you need to know about The Great, coming soon to Channel 4 in the UK.
How can I watch The Great in the UK?
The ten-part series will air on Channel 4 from early 2021. The series is an original production for Hulu, where it is available to stream for US viewers across the pond.
The Great cast
The series is led by Elle Fanning as future Russian leader Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite) as her petty and idiotic husband, Emperor Peter.
Other cast members include Sebastian de Souza (Skins) as Catherine’s court lover Leo; Sacha Dhawan as Orlov; Adam Godley as the Orthodox archbishop; and Phoebe Fox as an acid-tongued maid.
Gwilym Lee, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Bayo Gbadamosi and Belinda Bromilow complete the cast.
The Great plot
Channel 4 describes the ten-part series The Great as “a modern love story that incorporates historical facts, occasionally”.
That’s right, the series is an anachronistic, “fictionalised” account of the future Catherine the Great’s arrival in Russia at 19 years old, for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter. Expect plenty of historical inaccuracies akin to the break-dancing scene in The Favourite – which is to be expected, after all, given that the show is created by Tony McNamara, co-writer of that same Oscar-winning film.
Arriving at Russia’s court, German teenager Catherine is shocked to find herself in an hilariously debauched and oftentimes violent setting, and wedded to a man-child whose only interest in Catherine is the children she’ll one day give him (“Women are for seeding not reading!”).
The synopsis continues: “Hoping for love and sunshine, [Catherine] 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.”
The Great trailer
There’s no Channel 4 trailer for the series yet, but you can watch the official Hulu trailer here.