Friday, February 15, 1991
Copyright 1991

“YOUNG CATHERINE” captures the city’s shimmery summer light and magnificent pre-Revolution palaces and churches.

Yeah, there’s a story too, and it’s not badly told, by the frequently low standards of historical TV docudrama. It chronicles the early life of Catherine the Great (Ms. Ormond), who was sent from Prussia at the age of 15 by Frederick the Great to marry the Grand Duke (and future Emperor) Peter.

Peter turned out to be a dim-bulb bully, no match for Catherine, who had incredible political savvy. After many setbacks, she finally deposed her feeble husband and took the throne in 1762.

“Young Catherine” gets better as it goes. Ms. Ormond, who looks like a young Genevieve Bujold, protects Catherine’s initial naivete and her spine of steel.

Help also comes from Ms. Redgrave (competing with herself in ABC’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”) as the Empress Elizabeth, Peter’s autocratic aunt, and Maximillian Schell as Frederick – two wily old pros playing two wily old pros.

Reasonably true to history and tastier than flavored vodka. Young Catherine earns its crown.

“Young Catherine” 8 P.M. Sunday and Monday on TNT.