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‘Beaches,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Kick Off Emmy Season With Female-Driven TV

Winter 2017 brings two high profile female-driven properties: Beaches and Big Little Lies

On our Thanksgiving podcast, both Joey and I offered our thanks for the broad diversity currently demonstrated on television, particularly with female-driven content. This isn’t a new trend. Television boasts the upper hand over film with fresh and intriguing female perspectives. Black MirrorCrazy Ex-GirlfriendVeepGame of ThronesThe Good WifeGilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Not all of these series necessarily provide positive female impressions, but all provide engrossing and unique experiences. The trend looks to continue into 2017 with two high-profile projects: Lifetime’s Beaches and HBO’s Big Little Lies.

Beaches

Based on the 1988 film and the novel by Iris Rainer Dart, Lifetime’s Beaches definitely provides the sudsier material of the two projects. The original film felt like a TV movie thanks to Garry Marshall’s benign direction. Still, that film feels like a product of a bygone era. The 1980’s produced a strong array of successful films aimed at and starring women. Beaches opened modestly but went on to gross 10 times its opening weekend. It also powered an enormously successful soundtrack.

Beaches
(Photo: Lifetime)

January brings the Lifetime remake directed by Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging). The plot is largely the same: two girls meet and become life-long friends through success and tragedy. Idina Menzel takes the Bette Midler role of CC, an aspiring singer. Nia Long co-stars in the Barbara Hershey role of Hillary, an attorney jealous of CC’s success.

Lifetime released the first full-length trailer that, of course, features Menzel’s take on the infamous Grammy-winning anthem “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Things appear to have been modernized appropriately, and it’s nice to see a less “waspy” take on the material. The original film didn’t feature heavily in any awards conversation save the Grammys. Critics likely won’t help the remake, but audiences greatly embraced Lifetime’s similar remake Steel Magnolias, which received an Emmy nomination for Alfre Woodard. Idina Menzel would likely be the awards focus here should any heat exist. However, co-star Long has the more dramatic role. Still, if the below-mentioned Big Little Lies is as good as people want it to be, both actresses face an extremely uphill battle to an Emmy nomination.

We will know all when Lifetime unveils the project on January 21.

Big Little Lies

We’ve been anxiously awaiting this one since its initial announcement, and HBO just unveiled its premiere date. Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, HBO’s Big Little Lies brings the more obvious pedigree over Beaches. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers ClubWild), the film boasts a powerful, Emmy-bait cast with a script by David E. Kelley. Reese Witherspoon. Nicole Kidman. Shailene Woodley. Alexander Skarsgard. Laura Dern. Adam Scott. Zoe Kravitz. The dark comedy centers around three SoCal mothers whose deep involvement in their children’s school lives leads to murder.

This 7-episode limited series feels like the real deal on paper and in early material. Acting, writing, directing Emmy nominations all but seem assured. Assuming the quality is there, the only thing that stands in its way is HBO’s ridiculously full stable of quality limited series product (The Young Pope and The Night Of will also compete). There are only so many nominee slots to go around. Nowhere is this felt more than in the Limited Series Actress race where Kidman, Woodley, and Witherspoon could all compete. That all depends on category placement naturally.

When HBO announced the adaptation, many who’d read the original novel lamented the project’s relegation to television. In the right hands, this could have been a great film. Still, television provides the luxury to dive deeply into the characters so vividly brought to life in Moriarity’s novel.

HBO’s Big Little Lies premieres on HBO Sunday, February 19, at 9pm ET. Here’s the teaser released in October. Look for a full trailer within the next month.