From the time it was announced, Russian Dolls (Thursdays at 10:30/9:30c on Lifetime) was compared to Jersey Shore. But local-cultural focus is where the similarities end — borscht will never be the new pickles. Instead, this show, which is set in Brighton Beach ("Like another planet, it's one square mile of Brooklyn jam-packed with crazy Russians," one cast member explains in Thursday's premiere), is more tempered and a lot less wild.
Like Jersey Shore, though, it does spell out the parameters of this Russian-American cultural intersection explicitly (think back to the first few Jersey Shore episodes when virtually every sentence started with, "A guido is..." and you get the picture). The episode begins with an on-screen quote of a Russian proverb ("God can't be everywhere so he created Russian mothers") and from there, we're bombarded with factoids about Russian women via the show's cast. We take these with a grain of salt (don't believe everything you see on TV — especially reality TV), but here they are for your consideration:
1. "Russian women don't take s--- from anybody." — Sveta
2. "Big and blingy" is "definitely Russian style." — Marina
3. "If you're Russian, you're at the Banya [bath house]." - Diana
4. "In this community, if I date someone that's not Russian, it's a big deal." — Diana
5. "Gossip, gossip." "Drama, drama." "That's how every single Russian girl is." — Eddie Zee and Albert
6. A good Russian girl "does what her parents want, even if it makes her unhappy." - Anastasia
7. "Russian women love to flirt, but they never give up the goods ...They just make us wait for no reason, and then sometimes we wait and it's no good!" — Eddie Zee
8. "Sometimes they just want the free dinner." — Albert
9. Every Russian woman should know how to make borscht. —Diana's mom (according to Anna)
10. "The woman have to be all. The woman have to be housekeeper, woman have to be a good wife, woman have to be woman. It's very important." — Anna
If that seems bleak and constricting, well, that's more or less how the show portrays its cultural subjects. But there are bright spots: Renata serves some chicken soup for the soul with, "I learned in America that you are what you think you are. So if you think you're young and adorable, that's the deal." She's commenting on Marina's mother-in-law, Eva, who's a belly-dancing scream. Her old-lady pageant, which Marian reluctantly suffers through until she can't any longer, is hilarious. It's interesting that older women on this show swing between being the most conservative (see Anna's quote above about all that women have to be) and the most progressive (Renata and Eva, for example). The younger ladies seem somewhere lost in between.
And as for what we learned about Russian men? "Every Russian guy eats sushi," reports Diana. That's about as enlightening as it gets.