Nicole Kidman’s new series: As addictive as a Tayto party pack in a detox retreat

TV: In Nine Perfect Strangers the actor gives her wellness guru the full Goop loop-the-loop

What if Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express ditched the train in favour of hot springs, mood rings and Nicole Kidman with a wig and an iffy Russian accent?

Such are the nuts and bolts of Nine Perfect Strangers (Amazon Prime Video), a new series from David E Kelley, the creator of Big Little Lies and Ally McBeal, which blends who-killed-the-vicar? hokeyness with a sledgehammer critique of wellness culture.

By the end of the first of eight episodes you may feel you’ve been clobbered about the head with a smoothie maker as you are introduced to the dysfunctional and irritating new enrollees at Tranquillum House spa and resort.

Masha, Nicole Kidman's wellness guru, wafts in looking like someone rejected from a Florence and the Machine video for taking the bohemian-weirdo look too far

They include a depressed novelist, Frances (Melissa McCarthy), the naff Marconi family (including Michael Shannon delivering a bizarre David Letterman impersonation), the Love Island types Jessica (Samara Weaving) and Ben (Melvin Gregg), and the shifty, twitchy Lars (Luke Evans).


The loudest of the newcomers is the unpleasant Tony (Bobby Cannavale, chewing enough scenery to send his cholesterol through the roof). And then there is Carmel (Regina Hall), a dormouse who wants to be loved nearly as badly as she wants to lose weight.

All are here for physical renewal and spiritual reincarnation. Serving as their guiding light is Masha, played by Kidman as a Slavic take on Gwyneth Paltrow, giving it the full Goop loop-the-loop. Flashbacks fill us in on her back story. She used to work in finance – TV’s shorthand for anyone who has sold their soul – but had a moment of transcendence when she was shot. (Who wanted her dead, and why, will surely be revealed in coming weeks.)

The murder-mystery analogy isn’t quite accurate, in that there isn’t yet a body. But it’s obvious that something wicked is chugging down the track and that there is more to Masha than meets the eye. And what meets the eye is pretty creepy . She wafts in towards the end of the first instalment looking like someone rejected from a Florence and the Machine video for taking the bohemian-weirdo look too far.

Kelley didn't become the hitmaker he is by leaning into nuance, and Nine Perfect Strangers, which he created with Liane Moriarty (who wrote the original novel, along with Big Little Lies) and with Kidman herself, is about as understated as a hot-stone massage applied to the wrong body part.

The fun, in fact, lies in the silliness – and in the degree to which Kidman telegraphs how badly things are about to go for everyone by balefully waggling her eyebrows. Her performance and the show built around it are perfectly absurd yet as addictive as a Tayto party pack smuggled into a detox retreat.