Feb 20, 2017

Channel Surfing: Big Little Lies - "Somebody's Dead"

Scene from Little Big Lies
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
There's a good chance that Little Big Lies may be one of the most high profile shows of 2017, even only after two months of programming. The names attached are some of the highest caliber. With director Jean-Marc Vallee, writer David E. Kelly; and a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern; this show has a lot to live up to. Can the strong presence of talent possibly make a drama all about the lives of first grade mothers come to life in exciting ways? To say the least, the first episode may be a bit of a cryptic answer, and it's not even that reassuring.
The story has a mix of ideas swirling around all at once. There are witness testimonials given throughout, suggesting that the central cast of characters did something nefarious. They chronicle a story that isn't yet known. By the times that the characters are introduced, the mystery is still present but nothing really exciting has happened in the story. While the ending of the first episode may have something that could resemble a cliffhanger, it's tough to think that this show is anything but disappointing.
One has to wonder if the show is good because of the talent, or if it's not performing up to a standard that is more deserving. It could just be that introductory episodes of dramas are hard, as they have to cover a lot of ground in limited time. However, there's still not much reason to care for anything that happens. The central story plays as a conventional drama that looks to predict potential camp elements in a few episodes, but doesn't really look to have a story beyond uninspired and silly mystery box material. It would be one thing if these characters were interesting, but they aren't quite there yet.
It also doesn't help that it does little to separate itself from any of the modern soapy shows that have murder mysteries at the center. Even the diminishing returns of The Affair cast a shadow over this series. There may be clues dropped that make it more interesting somewhere down the road, but the show is still too impersonal and lacks anything innovative or authentic to really be more than an hour of programming with a great cast. It does seem likely that the show will live and die on the cast, as the story doesn't have much to offer. It's fine, but it's not good enough to answer why most of these people were drawn to the script. Time will have to show why Little Big Lies matters at all.

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