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With where the world is currently, sometimes the only medicine is laughter. When everything feels so chaotic, turning on a comedy helps to remove yourself from it all. However, some forms of comedy decide to face the problems of the world head-on, using satire to make people chuckle, instead of cry. Satire is difficult to pull off well, but HBO has a history of creating fantastic series that reflect upon sensitive topics, such as VEEP which is considered one of the best political satire comedy series to date.  It’s in this realm that HBO looks to continue to build with its newest miniseries, The Regime.

Will Tracy, who created this series, has had a long relationship with HBO and Warner Brothers, having previously produced/written The Menu and the highly successful HBO series Succession, as well as writing for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Leading the cast is the incomparable Kate Winslet, who is also an executive producer on the series. Joining her on camera are Mattias Schoenaerts, Guillaume Gallienne, Andrea Riseborough, and Danny Webb. But should The Regime be on your watch list? Read on to find out more!

[Warning: spoilers from The Regime premiere are below!]

Herbert lands himself a new job in The Regime premiere

When you’re a child, there’s no worse feeling than getting called down to the principal’s office when you know you’ve done something wrong. It’s a march to your demise, knowing that something bad awaits you at the other end. Usually, whatever happens in that office is never as bad as the scenario we have built up in our heads. Still, the anticipation and anxiety leading us from our classrooms and down the halls is enough to make anyone quiver in their boots. This is exactly how I imagine Herbert Zubak (Schoenaerts) felt when The Regime’s premiere episode opened up.

The Regime Kate Winslet
Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet). The Regime (HBO).

Herbert is in some hot water, as a recently disgraced soldier who has put his country on the map for an international incident. He’s a pariah in his own right, with no one wanting to interact or even make eye contact. So when he’s summoned to the office of Chancellor Elena Vernham (Winslet), he’s worried. What he wasn’t expecting was a second chance, as the leader of this small Central European country is looking for a new humidity checker to ensure her safety from the dreaded mold.

Yes, you read that right. The leader of a country happens to also be incredibly paranoid about spores that might be hiding around every corner. This anxiety has put her on edge, as if leading a country isn’t stressful enough. She requires someone faithful to keep her healthy, but there’s so much more that Elena should be concerned about. The world stands at a precipice, delicately hanging in the balance between her country and the United States. Can Elena secure the status for her country, or will she fall into the turmoil that is beginning to churn below the surface?

The positives and negatives of HBO’s new miniseries

Before I go too far into the positives and negatives, it should be noted that I’m not that familiar with Will Tracy’s work. I have never seen Succession, although have had it recommended to me multiple times. I wanted to see The Menu, but never got around to it. So my first foray into the world of Tracy’s works is The Regime, except for some episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and honestly, I wish I had started with something else.

The Regime isn’t for me, and from those I’ve spoken with about it, I’m not alone in this sentiment. It has all the makings of a good show, but something about it didn’t strike the way I think those involved wanted it to. This feels harsh to say, but it seems from concept to screen, something got lost in translation, even though it should have been a home run of a series for HBO.

When I first saw the trailer for The Regime, it felt like it would be a cross between VEEP and House of Cards. A good mix of dark comedy with a healthy amount of political thriller and satire. Instead, what we got was a series that was boring and lacked any personality, with jokes that fell flat and characters that were just awful.

The Regime Zubak (Mattias Schoeneart) and Elena (Kate Winslet)
Zubak (Mattias Schoeneart) and Elena (Kate Winslet). The Regime (HBO).

I had to remind myself many times as I watched it that this was satire, as it reads more like a drama, which I’m sure was the intended effect. It’s poking fun at the world’s geopolitical climate, but does so in a way that will make viewers anxious instead of laughing. There are definitely jokes that are intended to make the crowd laugh, but I didn’t find myself even smiling when they were delivered. Instead, I just kept checking the time to see how much more I had left before it was over.

The saving grace of The Regime is Kate Winslet, who is delightfully vile as Elena Vernham. She’s doing the absolute most with the role she has in front of her, carrying it on her shoulders to deliver anything close to digestible. Some moments were spectacular to watch, as you see a villainous side that doesn’t always come out in a lot of Winslet’s work. If there’s any reason to watch this series, it’s for Kate Winslet and her performance.

I also came to love Schoeneart’s Zubak, who takes a lot of horrid abuse from everyone, because of his actions before the series. Schoeneart does an admirable job of bringing humility and sturdiness to the role. He quickly becomes someone that Elena can trust, although suffers at her hands and for his actions. It’s an interesting dynamic, as the viewer, you’d expect to dislike someone who has done what he has, but instead, I grew to understand him at a deeper level, which was something I enjoyed from the series.

Final thoughts on HBO’s The Regime

Ultimately, the good in this series didn’t outweigh the bad. I found myself bouncing between anxiety and boredom watching the show. It feels like not much happens in the first couple of episodes to make me want to continue to finish the rest of them.

As much as I love Kate Winslet and everything she does, I suppose I learned that there are limits to what I would watch someone in. I’m sure there are those out there who are going to love The Regime, and that is completely okay. But this isn’t one that I plan on finishing anytime soon.

The Regime airs on Sundays on HBO and Max. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you have watched or plan on watching this new HBO miniseries!

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 365 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson