When it was released in 1993, Groundhog Day became a critical and commercial success, but its real legacy is its narrative. In the years since, countless movies and TV shows have played with the temporal loop structure Groundhog Day helped establish, in such diverse works as Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Run, Lola, Run and at least one episode of nearly every sci-fi show the last two decades. The second most-recent example (barely beat out by Happy Death Day 2U—now in theaters!) is also the one that best exploits the premise from a thematic and philosophical perspective.
Created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler, Russian Doll takes the basic Groundhog Day premise and exploits it for all the existential dread it can muster. Although ostensibly a comedy (there are plenty of laughs to be had at the expense of NYC hipsters and with the dark comedy death scenes), the show soon shifts gears into nightmare territory and emphasizes how truly a terrifying scenario reliving the same day over and over again would be.
Nadia Vulvokov (a pitch-perfect Natasha Lyonne, sporting the most glorious hair since whatever wig Laura Dern was sporting in Twin Peaks: The Return) is stuck in a time loop: Every time she dies, she comes back to the same bathroom at the same party on the night of her 36th birthday. The pilot for the most part follows her as she realizes what is happening, and she soon sets out to uncover what the hell is going on. Although the plot itself may feel familiar because of its inspirations, Russian Doll succeeds because of its commitment to fully exploring it themes and connecting Nadia’s arc to her character’s history. This feels more like a character study than most of the aforementioned examples, and although the show is hilarious, the creators’ primary focus is the themes and the characters. And the show’s primary relationships (which I won’t get into her, because spoilers) elevate the show from “entertaining” to “essential.”
In short, if a 21st century, artsy, indie Groundhog Day sounds like something you’d enjoy, then this is the show for you. Read the pilot script at the link below.