Yikes, HBO's big new Sunday night show is just 58% on Rotten Tomatoes

Kate Winslet in The Regime
(Image credit: HBO)

In HBO's "The Regime," a satirical authoritarian regime is crumbling. Unfortunately, the same can apparently be said of the series itself, judging by the critical and viewer response so far.

The Kate Winslet vehicle, which follows the chancellor (read: dictator) of a fictional autocracy in Central Europe, is supposed to bring a knowing grin to the faces of fans of shows like "Succession" and "Veep." Instead, it can't quite rally the support of any troops. 

The series made its HBO and Max streaming debut on March 3 to a lukewarm 57% Rotten Tomatoes score from a sample of 44 review scores. Its audience score didn't fare much better with a 47% score.

"The Regime" has only been available to stream for nearly two days, but it doesn't seem to be getting the positive reactions that seemed near-certain when previews first landed. It ultimately looked like it could be another sharp, satirical comedy in the guise of a political drama, but these scores indicate otherwise. 

While many critics predicted another big awards contender for star Winslet, there just doesn't seem to be any wind beneath its sails — a disappointment for a series with an impressive cast and unusual yet promising premise. 

What is 'The Regime' about?

From writer Will Tracy ("Succession"), "The Regime" follows former doctor Elena Vernham (Winslet) as the not-all-there chancellor of a fictional Central European country. She's spent much of her time over the years in her palace, never straying from her ornate home. Unfortunately, that's caused her to become paranoid and unstable, putting her trust in a military officer named Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is able to bend her ear to his wishes. 

Zubak becomes Vernhams's "personal water diviner" and eventually her most trusted advisor, despite his history as a disgraced soldier and not-so-trustworthy personality. Zubak's influence over the chancellor continues to grow as the faith of the people in her leadership dwindles. While she makes power plays to extend the country's power and influence, the palace and her staff begin to fall apart, leaving behind a fractured country in its stead. 

Rude, blunt, and callous, the chancellor doesn't seem at all aware of the way things are imploding around her, but the writing is on the wall for her authoritarian rule.

What the critics say about 'The Regime'

It's possible that "The Regime" could go on to have a good run despite initially poor impressions by both critics and viewers, but it seems reactions are currently middling across the board. 

Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin called it a "bleak, superficial exploration of the dangers of authoritarianism" and noted that it isn't "particularly funny, edifying, or insightful."

USA Today's Kelly Lawler was a bit kinder, acknowledging that it's "amusing sometimes, but cringey, confusing and a bit dull at others."

CNN's Brian Lowry found that the show is "weird but not very good," aside from Winslet's "over-the-top antics."

ABC News' Peter Travers praised Winslet's performance, but ceded that she "can't save this fractured political farce from drifting clumsily and calamitously into incoherence."

A few critics, like The Wall Street Journal's John Anderson, found a new favorite in "The Regime": "Ms. Winslet earns our undivided attention, making the profoundly mad and unquestionably despicable Elena one of the esteemed actor’s major achievements."

Only one episode has aired thus far, so it's possible reactions could change going forward. But these first critiques aren't exactly glowing. It'll be interesting to see if things improve as additional episodes roll out in the coming weeks. 

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Brittany Vincent

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.