Bubbling over with big-name stars, “Big Little Lies” is an enticing HBO limited series, one with echoes of several other prestige dramas. Featuring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in key roles, in terms of addictive appeal think of it as a more leisurely paced, soap-opera version of “True Detective.”

Based on a bestselling novel actually set in Australia, the locale has been moved to Monterey, California. Yet watching the action unfold — exposing secrets and, as one character delicately puts it, “bad blood in this community” — the show in some ways resembles “Broadchurch,” a British drama that peeled back layers in an otherwise unassuming, idyllic seaside town.

There’s also a parallel, appropriately, to “The Slap,” an Australian drama (later turned into a poor American one) that dealt with the escalating ramifications of an incident involving a young child. Here, it’s an accusation at the local elementary school that pits parents against each other, with other helicoptering moms and dads quickly choosing up sides.
Shailene Woodley plays Jane, a single mom whose son is singled out for allegedly choking another child. Madeline (Witherspoon) quickly befriends her and takes it upon herself to defend Jane against the other child’s mom, Renata (Laura Dern), who is ready to turn the incident into a holy war.

Like “Broadchurch,” at the heart of it all is a murder mystery. But the script by veteran TV ace David E. Kelley (directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, whose credits include the movie “Wild”) hides not only the murderer but also the victim, while third-party interviews with the police provide a kind of running chorus regarding what happened.
That subplot is vital but just one of the juicy threads. Others include Kidman as a wealthy woman with a younger husband (“True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgard); and Zoe Kravitz as the new wife of Witherspoon’s ex-husband (James Tupper), whose presence is a constant source of irritation.
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‘Big Little Lies’ Becomes Big-League HBO Miniseries

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