[As the Emmy nominating process draws closer, we’ll be revisiting programs that have completed their seasons to provide a snapshot of their strength and weaknesses as true contenders.]
It started off slowly, but along the way, “Big Little Lies” became a buzzworthy show that fans still cannot stop talking about and entertainment writers simply won’t stop praising. In fact, you’d think it was such a slow time of year that there was nothing else to write about (ponder that for a moment).
David E. Kelley‘s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s best-seller made a dramatic decision in moving the story’s locale from an upper-middle-class Australia neighborhood to the beautiful seaside cliffs of Monterey, California, but it still kept the focus on the charade of domestic bliss in this posh community while constantly teasing, in flash-forwards, the fact that there is a death being investigated by the authorities. It all begins with the seemingly perfect Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), a busy mom who is constantly fighting the good fight, from championing a local production of “Avenue Q” to protecting new arrival Jane (Shailene Woodley) from other parents willing to jump on any excuse to brand her young son a problem child at school (hello Renata, played marvelously by Laura Dern). Of course, Madeline’s exterior gradually begins to crack as she demonstrates she clearly isn’t over a divorce from her ex-husband, Nathan (James Tupper), that occurred eons ago and we learn she cheated on her current husband, Ed (Adam Scott), within the past year. Meanwhile, we discover Jane moved to Monterey searching for the man who raped her and fathered her child. If and when she finds him, what will she do, exactly?
The storyline that garnered the most attention, however, centers on Celeste (Nicole Kidman). Her relationship with an abusive husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), is portrayed with a complexity rarely seen in modern media. Over the course of the miniseries’ seven episodes, Celeste learns whether she can leave this man she thinks truly loves her, and Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallée make it a tougher decision than you might initially expect. This journey is seen mostly through meetings with her therapist, played with proper subtlety by Robin Weigert.
Since the limited series’ dramatic finale, an increasing number of commentators (mostly film writers) have lavished kudos on Kidman’s performance. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the deluge of “Nicole Kidman is underrated and finally getting her due” think pieces that have been published. Of course, Kidman earned her fourth Oscar nomination for “Lion” a good month before ‘Lies’ even premiered and earned SAG, Emmy and Golden Globe nods for other performances earlier in this decade, but sure, for some reason she’s been overlooked by everyone who isn’t regularly covering the movie business in some fashion or another. Honestly, as great as Kidman is in ‘Lies,’ the hype has been a bit much.
From HBO’s perspective, the network couldn’t buy this sort of organic publicity if it wanted to. The question is whether it’s all hitting a bit too early and how does HBO keep its potential-frontrunner status in categories such as Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie when each category is looking at historically competitive fields. In particular, Lead Actress appears to be a blood bath with Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Carrie Coon and Felicity Huffman, among others, competing with Kidman, Witherspoon and Woodley for just six slots. It’s a bounty of creative riches that may lead to the most edge-of-your-seat moment when the winner is eventually announced on Sunday, Sept. 17.
Program: “Big Little Lies”
Category: Limited Series
Network or Streaming Service: HBO
Key Creative Forces: Jean-Marc Vallée (director), David E. Kelly (created by)
Described in 140 characters or less: A group of (mostly) rich white women engage in school-pickup politics and battle personal demons in Monterey, CA. Oh, and someone dies.
Airdates: Feb. 19 – April 7, 2017
Major Player: Nicole Kidman. It goes without saying that she’s the actress with the best shot of winning Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Secondarily, Vallée could best Ryan Murphy (“Feud“) in Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series or Movie.
The Competition: “Feud,” “Fargo,” “Genius” and “The Night Of” as well as any individual talent from those programs.
Biggest strengths: Passionate industry fanbase, strong reviews and the might of HBO behind it.
Major Concerns: As noted, “Big Little Lies” has a tremendous amount of competition across the board. The fact it finished airing in the beginning of April is a two-month gap between voting when “Fargo” and “Feud,” in particular, will all be airing new episodes. HBO needs to make sure the series is top of mind when voting begins June 12. Moreover, how does the network juggle the campaigns for Kidman, Witherspoon and Woodley when it’s possible only one or two of the three make the cut in their category?
Categories and nominees currently in contention:
Outstanding Limited Series
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Nicole Kidman
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Reese Witherspoon
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Shailene Woodley
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Laura Dern
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Zoe Kravitz
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Alexander Skarsgård
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Adam Scott
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – James Tupper
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special – Jean-Marc Vallée
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special – David E. Kelley
Outstanding Main Title Design
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period Program (One Hour or More) – John Paino
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie – Michelle Ceglia
Outstanding Costumes for a Contemporary Series, Limited Series, or Movie –
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie – Yves Bélanger
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special – David Berman, Maxime Lahaie, Sylvain Lebel, Jim Vega
Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special – David Rubin