It’s no secret that Big Little Lies and Top Of The Lake are two of the best female led and produced TV shows of all time.
What was a bit of secret until recently however, was how these two critically acclaimed yet wildly different dramas somehow became intertwined deep beneath the chasms of the TV world.
But before you get excited about the possibility of Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) turning up at the school gates of Monterey or Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) heading to Laketop to solve a missing persons case, I’ll have to be the bearer of bad news and say you are fresh out of luck. This connection is one that happened entirely behind-the-scenes and off script.
But that doesn’t make it any less important.
Based on the best-selling book by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies is a darkly witty drama that unfolds within the opulent homes and at the school gates of Monterey in California. The story is told through the eyes of three mothers — Madeline, Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Jane (Shailene Woodley) with a murder mystery keeping fans hooked until the end.
Top Of The Lake takes a radically different turn. This show follows Moss’ character Robin as she returns to her remote hometown of Laketop in New Zealand to investigate the pregnancy and disappearance of a 12-year-old girl named Tui. Elizabeth Moss will reprise her role in the upcoming second season, Top of the Lake: China Girl, which is set in Sydney and also stars Nicole Kidman.
Listen to The Binge host Laura Brodnik give a spoiler free explanation on why you need to watch Top Of The Lake.
Big Little Lies was certainly a game changer when it came to female roles on TV (as proven by the flood of Emmy nominations it received) but I had no idea that it had taken it’s cue from Top Of The Lake until I sat in on a panel with Nicole Kidman and Top Of The Lake creator/writer Jane Campion at the show’s season two premiere held at the Sydney Opera House recently.
“We did Big Little Lies out of frustration,” Kidman said during the panel. “Reese (Witherspoon) and I, we were just really frustrated. Because we weren’t being offered the sort of roles that we wanted in terms of complexity. And so, that show was born out of a desire to create an opportunity for ourselves. And our friends.
“I have to say, by seeing the first season of Top Of The Lake, we saw what they were able to accomplish. That was how we were able to go ‘oh, maybe we can do Big Little Lies’ because at the same time there was True Detective which had the male leads. We then went ‘we want to do something that has got female leads. A show that is set in America’. But, we were inspired by Top of the Lake.
“I think that was the stepping stone. So, the more things are made, that are successful and have the women as the leads, is good. It inspires others and the people who put the money behind these things. The belief that it is going to be successful. We’re all helping each other.”
However, there's more to Big Little Lies and Top Of The Lake than just the inclusion of layered, strong female characters. The creation of these shows has actually had a roll-on effect when it comes to the material on offer on the small screen for male actors.
Listen to The Binge hosts explain why we need more Big Little Lies on our TV screens.
And, yes, before you role your eyes at the idea that male actors are not given meaty enough roles, please take into consideration that a fantastic male role acting against an inferior female role will still ultimately fall flat. There are no winners in that situation.
As Alice Englert, star of Top Of The Lake: China Girl and daughter of Jane Campion, pointed out in conversation with Nicole Kidman during the night, these two dramas have also drawn new ground for the male characters featured within them.
"I find that when you have interesting female characters, you have more interesting male characters as well," she said, as Nicole nodded in agreement. "I find that when the female characters are limited, I’m also not that satisfied with how men are portrayed either. So, I think this is really a step forward for everyone."
"To have done two television series in one year, that are primarily female casts, is fantastic and I’m really happy to be part of that," added Nicole. "But, the male characters are secondary in Top Of The Lake, they are the supporting."
The first season of Top Of The Lake which consists of seven episodes, is available to watch now on Foxtel, and the new season, Top of the Lake: China Girl, will drop Sunday August 20 on BBC First and Foxtel.
The entire series of Big Little Lies is also available through Foxtel.
I recommend you watch both.
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