Okay, I probably liked watching CZJ more that I would have the real CTG, but surely there must be actresses who could have played the role better. It's a shame we couldn't peel (sorry, I couldn't resist) a few decades off of Diana Rigg, or CZJ's co-star Jeanne Moreau, or better still, Francesca Annis. Get "Lillie" and watch Annis and a much better supporting cast (and direction and production) put CTG to shame (and they did it a quarter-century earlier) in a MUCH better costume show about a young woman who starts as an unsophisticated teen and conquers a man's world, royalty and all. Annis is a lot more believable as she charms, beguiles, teases, scorns, tolerates, manipulates, and sometimes frostily discards kings, princes, artists, ministers, captains of commerce, seemingly whatever men she chooses -- all this without being a princess, czarina, or empress. The boss ladies in "I Claudius" and Lindsay Duncan in "Traffik" likewise showed how it should be done. The fake duchess in "Hornblower" and the perfect cast of "Pride and Prejudice" show that A & E can find great actresses now. Why didn't they do it here? For instance, the actress who played CTG's lady-in-waiting could probably have done a lot more with the lead role.
The one star performance is by Jeanne Moreau as the aging / dying Empress Elizabeth. Too bad she's gone before the movie's half over. Ian Richardson is satisfactorily sly and slimy, but Omar Sharif helps prove that actors, like wines, do not all age well (sorry to say that about a fellow bridge freak). The role of Potemkin could have been so much greater than the hardly believable boy-toy play it got.
This movie is worth watching because it depicts highly significant times and events often ignored in the US as we focus on our late colonial and early revolutionary events occurring about the same time. Also, for the guys, sure, CZJ is definitive delicious brunette yumminess (but Sophia was better), and we get lotsa good cleavage shots, but in a skin flick, I want more skin.