What Big Little Lies' Success Means For HBO, According To One Exec

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies
(Image credit: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO)

Fans of HBO's Big Little Lies recently got their first glimpse of new Season 2 cast member Meryl Streep, and like many of the series' leading ladies, you may have heard of her before. The award-winning drama landed Streep in the wake of the drama's massive success last year. In a new interview, HBO's president of programming Casey Bloys explained what that success means for the network and its future programming.

What it showed was that there was a place not only on HBO, but in the greater TV landscape, for shows that showed complex, complicated women. One of the things that would drive me nuts is when people would call a show like this with really talented actresses talking about things that are important to, really, everybody -- but women specifically in terms of schooling and infidelity and, in this case, domestic abuse -- a 'guilty pleasure.' Why is a show that's smart and entertaining and talking about really difficult topics a guilty pleasure? Why dismiss it that way?

One of HBO's more vocal execs, Casey Bloys' comments came during an interview with THR, when he was asked what the most surprising element regarding Big Little Lies' success has been. Originally planned for a single season, the adaptation of author Liane Moriarty's novel of the same name was eventually green-lit for a second season after much discussion, both within the fanbase and at the network. That announcement did not come as a major surprise. It was a massive hit with viewers and critics alike, which is a rare combination for any series to pull off, and the producers capitalized on it by adding yet another iconic female star known for playing complex, complicated characters.

Big Little Lies is not the only female-centric drama HBO has in its arsenal. At some point this year, the cabler will unveil its latest limited mystery drama, Sharp Objects, which is an adaptation of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn's novel. Casey Bloys also explained how the success of Big Little Lies has only reaffirmed the network's commitment to the upcoming female-driven project.

It just reinforces some of the bets we've already made like Sharp Objects, which we've got coming out this summer with Amy Adams. I can't think of a more complicated female lead. I mean, she's to the point of self-destruction. There are a lot of celebrated, self-destructive male leads out there, but it's going be very interesting to see a woman really wrestling with her demons like that. Richard and I have talked a lot about, like, why aren't there more? Now, obviously there's a lot of history behind that, people liking men a certain way and women a certain way. But one of the things that I hope that Big Little Lies shows is that you can have complicated female characters and it can not only do well but it can break records and win awards.

The chances are good that HBO's bet on Sharp Objects will pay off in big ways. While Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects both boast significant star power in front of the camera, these are not just everyday TV stars. Both series hinge on the fact they are led by largely big screen trailblazers. Throughout their film careers, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and Amy Adams have given masterful portrayals of complicated women. Because of that, each actress has made TV a likelier landscape for similar personas to find a rapt reception. Again, Meryl Streep, people!

All that being said, the scripts also make a significant difference, so here is hoping Amy Adam's troubled crime reporter in Sharp Objects goes over better than another female lead in a recent high-profile HBO series. True Detective Season 2 featured a similarly tortured protagonist in the form of Rachel McAdams' detective Ani Bezzerides, but the role only served to frustrate for most of the season, and in an installment that did largely the same thing. It was not a good situation, but after Big Little Lies, it's only getting better.

One positive element that Sharp Objects will share with Big Little Lies Season 1 is that Jean-Marc Vallée served as director for both. They also share something else in common: HBO has yet to set a premiere date for Big Little Lies Season 2 or Sharp Objects. To pass the time in between dramas, check out our midseason and summer premiere guide to find out what's coming up next on TV.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.