Tuesday, June 25, 2024

“Big Little Lies,” The Perfect Summer Series, Owes a Lot to Real Soaps like “Knots Landing” and “The Young and the Restless”


It was April 2017 when Nicole Kidman, as the much upon Celeste, helped push her abusive husband Perry (Alex Skarsgaard) down a flight of steps at the end of “Big Little Lies.” Her posse of pals helped, particularly Zoe Kravitz. They claimed Perry slipped, and fell. They got away with it. Fade to black. The good guys won.

A year later, in April 2018, on CBS’s much less respected, much more low budget soap, “The Young and the Restless,” a group of ladies killed the domestic abuser husband of one of the main characters. Because daytime soaps never fade to black– they produce 285 episodes a year– something had to happen. So they rolled the guy up in a rug and buried him under a gazebo in a public park. Later, it all came out, the women were exonerated because somehow the guy escaped and was really crazy.

So now the women on “Big Little Lies” are at the end of their sort of unexpected second season, they’ve spent 7 episodes wringing their hands over what’s already been wrapped up on “Y&R.” The daytime soap has named a new character Celeste.

Outside of that budget, there’s not much difference between the two shows. The only difference is “Big Little Lies” took it very seriously, whereas the daytime soap breezed onto the next scandal. That’s what “Big Little Lies” will have to do for their sort of unexpected season 3 (you wonder did they sign up for 5? 7? but just took an oath to pretend they hadn’t).

“Big Little Lies” owes nothing to the daytime show, but tons to the nighttime soaps of the 80s, particularly “Knots Landing.” You think because movie stars are here, this is More Important. Also, it’s 30 years later, so abuse is viewed differently. But it’s all the same. A bunch of heroines trapped in a cul de sac, afraid to let the others see their wounds. And then, just for kicks, Laura Dern plays an outrageous over the top rich woman– she was Donna Mills on “Knots Landing” — who you love to hate because she’s so much fun. (A couple of weeks ago she told her kid, “It’s not about the money– well, yes, it is about the money.”) Summer needs her as it drags out.

If “Big Little Lies” aired weekly on a network, I’d definitely show it on a Sunday at 9pm. It feels like a CBS show. Even though it’s on HBO, it’s pretty tame. There’s an occasional F word. But nothing like HBO’s “Euphoria.” Still, the fun is in the getting there. On Sunday there was a courtroom scene worthy of any good soap, that ended with the revelation that Celeste– who drinks, sleeps around, and has never seemed to work at anything —  is also a lawyer! And she — in the form of the exquisite Nicole Kidman– will examine a buck toothed Meryl Streep as her crazy mother in law next week on the stand! Who’s gonna miss that? That will be better than Lannisters vs. the Starks!

Sadly, “Big Little Lies” came out too late to qualify for the Emmys in September. So we’ll have to wait til January and the Golden Globes for some gold statues. Everyone involved deserves one. And we– the press– will be asking about Season 3. All involved will claim how “hard” it is to do. No one will know if it’s possible! But it is, and will be, and let’s hope they hurry. There’s plenty of life left in these characters if we just drop the pretense that this is Ibsen. It’s just a damn good time!  (PS in the old days, the late Richard Dawson would have had the women from “BLL” vs. the gals from “KL” on “Family Feud.” Kids today don’t what they’re missing!)

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News