In an era where the accepted hierarchy of Great Television starts with Tony Soprano and continues with Don Draper and Walter White, where event programming is reserved for Game of Thrones and other such muscular epics, it was hugely gratifying that Big Little Lies was not only the best American television program of 2017 but also became event programming in its own right. Despite not being about the kinds of morally compromised, violent, destructive men that we've been conditioned to expect, the women of Monterrey were compelling, complicated characters in their own right. That they were performed by actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern was the icing on the cake. The show was an unquestionable triumph.
It was also a show that ended, in the opinion of many, perfectly. The murder mystery we wondered about all season was laid bare. The "Monterrey Five" got away with their righteous crime of self-defense. No one deserved to go to jail, and no one did, but the cloud of suspicion and gossip and putting your neighbors' lives under a magnifying glass would continue on, while Madeline, Renata, Bonnie, Jane, and Celeste played with their kids on the beach in comfy sweaters. The end.
Only now we're back. And Meryl Streep is onboard, playing the mother of the deceased. And suddenly, a TV series that was about women waging warfare over community theater and playground squabbles, with the spectre of a murder as a point of contrast, may end up being just another TV show about morally compromised people trying to cover up a murder.
Or maybe it won't be. Maybe Witherspoon and Kidman and Streep and new director Andrea Arnold will keep to the spirit of the perfect first season. One thing for is sure: seeing how it all shakes out is appointment viewing.
SEASON PREMIERE: Ahead of tonight's second-season premiere of Big Little Lies, we're wondering which of the Monterrey Five is most likely to break ranks. No matter what happens, the addition of Meryl Streep to this already-legendary lineup of actresses is TV history in and of itself. 9:00 PM ET on Netflix
SPECIAL PRESENTATION: Can I just say outright that programming the Big Little Lies premiere up against Broadway's biggest night is an actual hate crime. (During Pride month, of all months!) Yes, The 73rd Tony Awards air tonight, which means you're either recording it it or hoping all the good Tonys get handed out during lulls between Streep-Kidman showdowns. The big musicals in competition include Hadestown, The Prom, Tootsie, and the revamped, sex-forward version of Oklahoma!. 8:00 PM ET on CBS
SEASON PREMIERE: Tonight also marks Claws third season premiere, with Niecy Nash once again giving a tour de force performance. Between Claws and the Ava DuVernay-directed When They See Us on Netflix — where she plays the religious mother of one of the Central Park Five kids — Nash is showing all the colors on her particular rainbow. 9:00 PM ET on TNT
SEASON FINALE: Showtime's Billions brings its fourth season in for a landing tonight. With pressure coming at him from all sides, Axe (Damian Lewis) makes a crucial decision. Look for the dynamics on the show to shift before season's end. 9:00 PM on Showtime
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Big Little Lies