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Shows Like Big Little Lies That Drama Fans Need To See

HBO drama "Big Little Lies" was an instant hit when it was released in 2017 amongst critics and viewers alike. Based on the novel of the same name by author Liane Moriarty and created by David E. Kelley, "Big Little Lies" sets up a mysterious death in the first episode and then presents the lead up to the murder through the subsequent six episodes. Set in a wealthy community of Monterey, CA, the plot centers on a handful of mothers in the community — Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) and Renata (Laura Dern).

After its initial season, the series went on to receive 16 Emmy nominations, winning eight. The wins included Outstanding Limited Series and acting awards for Kidman, Dern and Alexander Skarsgård. The immense critical and commercial success thus led to a second season to be commissioned by HBO — despite it originally being intended as a miniseries. All of the main cast members returned for Season 2, with Meryl Streep joining the cast as Celeste's mother in law. A third season has not been confirmed yet, but it also hasn't been ruled out — plus several cast members have expressed enthusiastic interest in doing another season, such as Witherspoon and Dern in an interview with Entertainment Tonight Canada.

Of course, if you're a fan of the show, you likely know all of this already. And while you're waiting for a potential third season, you may want some similar recommendations to watch in the meantime — and we have a whole list of them for you. Read on for the shows you have to check out if you're a fan of "Big Little Lies."

Mare of Easttown

If you like "Big Little Lies," then you like mystery. With "Big Little Lies," it's not made known who died or who did it or why, leaving several big questions that need to be answered as the series progresses. With "Mare of Easttown," it's framed a little differently — we know that it's a local teen mother, Erin (Cailee Spaeny), who was killed, but the who and why is completely up in the air and isn't revealed until the finale. Her death is investigated by police detective Mare Sheehan (Winslet), who becomes enveloped in the case while also dealing with her own personal demons. The supporting cast includes veteran actress Jean Smart and "American Horror Story" regular Evan Peters.

The series was adored by critics — and HBO viewers — and won big at this year's Emmys, taking home four of their 16 nods, including one for Winslet's leading performance. Many critics point to Winslet as a leading factor for the show's success. The Age wrote, "With her regional accent prominent, [Kate Winslet] invests one of her rare television performances with such a vivid interior life that Mare's watchfulness and intractability have a telling openness."

"Mare of Easttown" shines beyond Winslet, with its talented supporting cast, stellar direction and utterly compelling writing. Summing it up nicely, News.com.au called it, "That rare, confident series which jumps off the screen, fully formed."

Sharp Objects

Speaking of messy, flawed and complicated women, "Sharp Objects" presents one of the most compelling with its lead character, Camille Preaker, played by the always wonderful Amy Adams. Based on the novel of the same name by "Gone Girl" author Gillian Flynn, "Sharp Objects" follows crime reporter Camille, a struggling alcoholic, as she returns to her hometown to look into and write about the murders of two young girls. Staying with her critical socialite mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), Camille finds herself forced to confront her own past and struggles.

The writing of "Sharp Objects" has been deemed impeccable, with the vibrant characters proving especially compelling. In the NPR audio review, host Eric Deggans said, "We don't see female anti-heroes like Camille on TV very often, a woman whose trauma and bad choices are written on her body in ways you will remember long after the show's final credits have rolled." The Guardian delved into the show's themes, writing, "Misogyny and trauma are the focus and the feeling of 'Sharp Objects,' but the story is so empathetic to women's perspectives that it never feels exploitative. A deeply immersive, feminist take on TV crime."

Additionally, viewers will find the careful, slow burn plotting all the more satisfying when the final, shocking reveal is made in the show's finale.

The Undoing

"The Undoing" is an easy addition to this list, as it marks the next collaboration between "Big Little Lies" creator David E. Kelley and one of its stars, Nicole Kidman — plus it falls into a similar genre. It also pulls from a novel for source material, although not one by Liane Moriarity — this one's inspiration is the 2014 novel "You Should Have Known" by Jean Hanff Korelitz. The series follows Grace Fraser (Kidman), a wealthy and successful therapist living in New York, whose world begins to unravel when she finds herself and her family caught up in the middle of a murder case.

"The Undoing" wasn't praised quite as much as "Big Little Lies" — although it is not without its merits and holds a moderately high Tomatometer score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Overall, the critics who enjoyed it deemed "The Undoing" an entertaining thriller with beautiful cinematography and solid performances from Kidman and her co-lead, Hugh Grant. The Mail on Sunday called it "a fun ride and a swanky ride, and a grippingly involving ride," while FlickDirect declared that it had "Outstanding casting, sharp writing, and excellent directing make this mini-series engaging."

Broadchurch

If you like crime dramas from the perspective of the detectives solving the cases, then "Broadchurch" is definitely a solid choice. The British series, created by Chris Chibnall, ran for three seasons between 2013 to 2017. The cast is led by Olivia Colman, who recently won an Emmy for her work on "The Crown," and "Doctor Who" star David Tennant, with supporting roles portrayed by the likes of Andrew Buchan, Charlotte Beaumont, and another "Doctor," Jodie Whittaker.

"Broadchurch" takes place in a fictional English town, Broadchurch, and follows local detectives Alec Hardy (Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Colman). Each season focuses on a different major crime. The first season, for example, presents the investigation into the death of an 11-year-old boy and the subsequent media attention that the small town receives.

According to most critics, there's a whole lot to love about "Broadchurch." The Sydney Morning Herald praised it across board, writing, "We get not just seamless exposition, we get a tremendous feel for character that has us instantly caring about who these people are and how this event affects them. A fabulous cast helps, too." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also made a great case for the drama, writing, "It's everything great drama should be — riveting, raw, heartbreaking, funny and very, very smart." And if you're already a fan of either Tennant or Colman, both actors each received an abundance of praise for their performances — one more reason to check out "Broadchurch."

The Handmaid's Tale

For a show with multiple strong and complex women characters, like we see in "Big Little Lies," "The Handmaid's Tale" is arguably one of the best examples of recent years — after all, the entire series is about women fighting for their rights. Based on the novel of the same name by author Margaret Atwood, "The Handmaid's Tale" takes place in a dystopian society, Gilead, in which fertility is scarce and fertile women are forced into becoming handmaids. As handmaids, they're assigned a wealthy couple and are forced to have sex with their commander in the hopes of getting pregnant and giving birth to a child for the wealthy couple to then raise. The handmaid would then be assigned another couple to do the whole horrendous process again. The series focuses on June (Elisabeth Moss)— renamed Offred, as in "Of Fred," when she is assigned to Fred (Joseph Fiennes) and Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski) — as she fights back against the system, determined to be reunited with the daughter who was taken from her.

The show has been praised for its strong writing and the ways in which it tackles its heavy themes, as well as the performances from its talented cast. The Guardian wrote, "For many, the anguish of watching won't be worth it. But the vision of a totalitarian society is realized so fully that the story remains gripping and its message vital." Indeed, anyone who has seen the series will agree that is incredibly difficult to watch — but also all the more satisfying because of its tough nature, one that feels all too timely.

Meanwhile, fans of the 1986 novel will be happy to hear that it does its source material justice. Deborah Ross from The Mail on Sunday, wrote, "'The Handmaid's Tale' is one of my favourite novels, so they're bound to mess that up, but get this: it's incredible. It'll blow you away."

Little Fires Everywhere

Based on the 2017 book of the same name by Celeste Ng, "Little Fires Everywhere" focuses on two mothers — Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon), a wealthy journalist, and Mia Warren (Kerry Washington), a struggling artist and waitress — as their lives become intertwined, with plenty of secrets and mysteries abound amidst the two families. Set in the late 1990s, the premise begins with the Richardsons' family home engulfed in a fire.

Vogue called the series "the soapy '90s era escape you need right now." Meanwhile, The Verge drew attentions to the show's vivid characters and the ways in which they serve the themes, writing, "As deft as the characterization is, the series is also interested in the forces that produce it — how a woman's ambitions are stifled by societal pressures, and how she ultimately can end up reinforcing the boundaries that initially penned her in."

With stellar performances from Witherspoon and Washington — as well as the supporting cast — and an intriguing premise that begins with a house fire set from the inside, there's a lot about "Little Fires Everywhere" to pull you in and keep you watching.

Nine Perfect Strangers

Another natural addition to this list is the recent Hulu drama, "Nine Perfect Strangers," which ticks off three major boxes in terms of details it has in common with "Big Little Lies" — it's created by David E. Kelley, it stars Nicole Kidman and it's based on a novel by Liane Moriarty. Although it's not nearly as critically acclaimed as "Big Little Lies" — it has just a 61% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes — there is still a lot about "Nine Perfect Strangers" to pull in viewers.

The series takes place at a wellness center called Tranquillum House, which is run by the enigmatic Masha Dmitrichenko (Kidman). As nine strangers (played by the likes of Regina Hall, Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon and more) gather for a ten day retreat, they soon realize that their experience will be much different than expected — and will include plenty of secrets and revelations to go around.

The show definitely received its fair share of criticism, such as poor plotting, a wobbly Russian accent from Kidman and a tone of silliness rather than the intended seriousness. Still, plenty of viewers have tuned in precisely for those criticisms, finding it a fun and entertaining watch in all of its nonsensical elements. The cast members have also received praise for bringing in more depth than the script provides. Metro.co.uk wrote that the cast is "magnetic from the get go," while NDTV claimed the series is "enlivened just enough by the performances." If anything, you may be sucked in just out of curiosity.

True Detective

The three seasons of "True Detective" offer three completely standalone storylines, beginning in Season 1 with a time-jumping narrative led by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The second season found its leads in Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn, while Season 3 is led by Mahershala Ali.

Seasons 1 and 3 both found significant praise and have similar Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, at 87% and 85% respectively. Season 2 faltered a bit in its reception and currently has just a 62% Tomatometer score. For the purpose of this list, we'll focus on the first season, which actually has a near perfect 99% audience score.

First and foremost, both McConaughey and Harrelson received an abundance of praise for their performances. RogerEbert.com wrote of the leads, "McConaughey and Harrelson don't just fill out these characters, they disappear into them, delivering two of the best performances you'll see in TV or film this entire year." Additionally, the direction and cinematography have been hailed as exceptional — including a six-minute single take tracking shot, which IndieWire called "a phenomenal feat of filmmaking." Summing up the whole of the series, The Independent sung its praises: "Every now and then a television programme arrives so fully formed and confident that the only response is to gasp in pleasure and applaud. Crime thriller 'True Detective' ... is one such show."

How to Get Away with Murder

If you're looking for a crime and murder drama from the legal perspective, then look no further than ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder," starring powerhouse Viola Davis, which ran from 2014 to 2020. The series follows a brilliant professor of defense law and criminal defense attorney, Annalise Keating (Davis), who teaches a class titled How to Get Away with Murder. With each semester, Annalise picks a group of her most promising students to assist her with the cases she takes on at her firm.

The series was widely praised and even earned Davis an Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series amongst the show's numerous nominations. It holds an average 88% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes — with Season 4 even having a perfect 100% score. Some of the criticisms have pointed to a melodramatic tone or generally over the top plot lines — but that's exactly what other critics have enjoyed about the series. Entertainment Weekly, in a rave review, wrote, "At this point, with Davis at the front, How to Get Away With Murder can get away with just about anything it wants."

Overall, it seems Davis is by and large the driving factor of the entire series. Refinery29 wrote, "Viola Davis' brilliant portrayal of Annalise Keating is the glue that holds the series together, and we saw her dramatic perfection in full force tonight."

Safe

Michael C. Hall — aka notorious fictional serial killer Dexter — is no stranger to crime, but with "Safe," he finds himself playing a character affected by it rather than engaging in it himself. Like "Big Little Lies," this British miniseries takes place in an affluent community — a gated neighborhood, to be exact — where crime is not exactly expected to occur.

"Safe" follows a widowed surgeon, Tom (Hall), who is beginning to adjust to life after the death of his wife, which includes taking care of his two teenage daughters and entering a new, promising relationship. But, when one of his daughters goes missing with her boyfriend, Tom finds his world completely turned upside down. In an effort to find her, Tom gets help from his new girlfriend, Sophie (Amanda Abbington), a police detective. As the search for his daughter continues, Tom discovers secrets to those closest to him.

The Globe and Mail made a convincing case for the series, bringing attention to the stars, writing, "It's really rather good, and both Hall and Abbington are superb to watch, fine actors adding texture to the wildly twisted plotting and the gusty dialogue that would make many actors knackered." Meanwhile, IndieWire described it as "a soapy pleasure and should entertain Netflix viewers craving engaging distraction."

Unbelievable

One element of "Big Little Lies" that is done thoughtfully and carefully is its exploration of sexual assault and the proceeding trauma. Another series that covers this difficult topic with ease is "Unbelievable," the 2019 Netflix crime drama.

"Unbelievable" is loosely based on the 2015 longform article "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, about the series of rapes in Washington State and Colorado from 2008 to 2011. The series follows detectives Grace Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Karen Duvall (Merritt Wever) as they work to track down the serial rapist, as well as the story of a teenager, Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), who, after initially telling the police she was raped, walks back her claim.

The series is undeniably a hard one to watch, but ultimately satisfying in the end — and compelling the whole way through. Summing up the core of the show nicely, NPR wrote, "'Unbelievable' unfolds slowly and methodically and without melodrama. Its eight episodes take the time to show the cost of sexual assault on its victims, and its deliberateness heightens the ironic sting of the series' title: What's truly unbelievable isn't Marie's story about being raped, but how she's not listened to by those supposedly there to protect her."

The Flight Attendant

In "Big Little Lies," the women of Monterey don't mean to get caught up in a murder case — and the same can be said for the protagonist of "The Flight Attendant," Cassie Bowden, played by Kaley Cuoco.

"The Flight Attendant," based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, focuses on flight attendant Cassie, a struggling alcoholic, who often drinks while at work and goes off on benders in the various cities she visits in between flights. When she meets a handsome stranger named Alex (Michiel Huisman) on a flight to Bangkok, she ends up spending the whole night partying with him. It's a fun night — until she wakes up in his bed the next morning to find him dead, with his throat slashed. Having blacked out the night before, Cassie doesn't know what her involvement is in the murder and, afraid to talk to the police, she cleans up the crime scene and flees — but still becomes entwined in the murder case.

The London Evening Standard convincingly summed up what makes the show so successful, writing, "Prestige TV has started taking itself ponderously seriously, but The Flight Attendant does precisely the opposite and is all the more enjoyable for it. Expertly teetering between black comedy and pulpy thriller, this is a hell of a ride." Much of the attention has also gone to Cuoco who absolutely shines in the leading role — and even got herself an Emmy nod. The Chicago Sun-Times described her performance as "a marvel to watch every second she's on screen." Plus, the initial premise is too intriguing to ignore — who did kill Alex and could it actually be Cassie?