Monday, February 20, 2017

TV: HBO finally scores another hit

QUANTICO has proven just how quickly a show can wither away.

By episode 12 of season one, the show was struggling in the ratings.

And the struggle never ceased.


HBO's been struggling for a while as well.

No one wants to watch GIRLS.

And VEEP's one million or so viewers an episode now qualifies as hit material for the cable network.

Once upon a time, SEX IN THE CITY could easily deliver 7 million viewers an episode.

It was that memory that led HBO to bring back Sarah Jessica Parker for another series.

Sadly, DIVORCE is no SEX IN THE CITY and it's never been able to amass even one million viewers for an episode.  More often than not, in fact, it's averaging half-a-million viewers an episode.

In other words, it's become the ABC of cable -- offering programming that's running viewers off.

David E. Kelley is no Darren Star (creator of SEX IN THE CITY) but his new show BIG LITTLE LIES is the best thing HBO's had in years, and we say that as two overwhelmed by BIG LITTLE LIES and not just as two friends of David.

It's a tight, little comic mystery that debuted Sunday night with a death that may have been a murder.

Who was the victim?

We have no idea yet.

From the crime scene, we quickly moved to Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) driving her youngest daughter to orientation.  There's almost an accident which leads Madeline to roll down her window and yell at the car ahead of her, "You're going to die!"

The driver stops texting long enough to flip the bird out the window.

Walking up to the car, Madeline tells the driver, "Excuse me, you must stop.  You're going to kill yourself."

She grabs the phone and lectures her oldest daughter whom she discovers in the back seat of this car.

A lot of talk of death goes down in episode one.  Some of it foreshadowing, to be sure.

Celeste Wright is Madline's friend (and played by Nicole Kidman).  Celeste is married to Perry (Alexander Skarsgard).

People fret, to the police, over the lovey dovey displays of public affection the couple is frequently taking part in.

And at first, you think, "Talk about jealous."

But then you start to realize something is wrong in this marriage and that the PDAs are actually a cover.

That's when you think back to the undercurrent in the couple's first scene.

Celeste is attempting to get the two boys to stop running around and getting in the car.

Perry hollers, "First one to the car gets a dollar!"

As the boys run off, he says, "It just takes money."

A mild laugh.

But it's probably so much more than that.

As it is when Perry tells Celeste, "You love it when I'm bad."

Shailene Woodley plays newcomer Jane Chapman, mother of Ziggy.

Where is Ziggy's father?

Jane says he's out of the picture.

Is he?

There's a way she looks at Celeste that suggest Perry may be the father of Ziggy.

That would explain Jane's comments like, "I see this life -- and it's so wonderful -- but it's like, it doesn't belong to me."

Madeline doesn't think it belongs to her either -- or that it's so wonderful.

She's married to Ed Mackenzie (Adam Scott).


She used to be married to Nathan (James Tupper).

And maybe she could stand him as her ex if it wasn't for the fact that he's married Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) and had a child with her and they just seem so wonderful and so in love.

They encounter one another at orientation.

But what really stands out for the day is when Renata (Laura Dern) is furious that a boy scratched her daughter and apparently tried to choke the little girl.

The culprit?

Everyone says it's Ziggy who denies it.

But that, we're told by witnesses to the police about the murder (of whom we don't know), is when people took sides -- it was Renata versus Madeline.

BIG LITTLE LIES is a strong offering from HBO.

We're a little confused and some of it is the natural confusion a mystery will create.

Some of it isn't.

Like Zoe Kravitz.

Why does everyone in the press bill her as Lenny Kravitz's daughter and act like it's a shock that the rocker could be the father of such a strong actress?

Her mother is Lisa Bonet -- an Emmy nominated actress.

Zoe's very talented.

The entire cast is.

Both Nicole and Reese are Academy Award winners and Laura Dern is an Academy Award nominee for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

It's a strong cast but the best thing the series has going for it is solid writing.

All seven episodes of season one were written by David E. Kelley.  That's why it's solid writing and why it's so cohesive and involving.  HBO finally has a new series worth watching.

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