Hours after HBO today greenlighted a second, seven-episode installment of Big Little Lies, the Producers Guild has moved to reclassify the show’s original installment from a limited series to a drama series for the upcoming 2018 PGA Awards. The guild sent an email to members on Friday night, notifying them of the change that is re-setting the TV nominations ballot after two days of voting. It is a big undertaking — the votes that have been already cast are being annulled, and TV voting for the 2018 awards is being re-started.
“At the time of the release of the ballots, HBO’s series Big Little Lies qualified for the Guild’s Long-Form Programs category,” the email, obtained by Deadline, read. “However, with today’s announcement that HBO has ordered a second season of the series with the main characters continuing into the second season, the series no longer qualifies within that category. In accordance with our rules, we have determined that the most equitable course of action is to adjust the ballots – placing Big Little Lies in the Episodic Drama category for which it now is qualified – and re-start the voting afresh… Please take a moment to re-cast your votes as all ballots submitted to date for television for the 2018 Producers Guild Awards have been voided.”
Reached for comment on Friday night, an HBO spokesperson said that HBO does not agree with that decision.
I hear the decision came after a string of back-and-forths between the guild and the network following the 11:30 AM announcement of Big Little Lies’ renewal by HBO. Big Little Lies competed as a limited series and won big at the Primetime Emmy Awards. While it would be challenging for the show to continue to be recognized as a limited series going forward, given that the second installment is expected to pick up where the first one left off, with the same characters played by the same cast, led by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, the PGA decision applies to the first installment. I hear HBO argued that it had been conceived and sold as a limited series based on a book with a beginning, middle and an end, with the creative auspices and the actors had been contracted for a limited series with no options for a second season.
In the end, the PGA ruled that the fact that the story will be getting a continuation — even with a brand new chapter — also disqualifies the original installment as a limited series. No other guilds are making such a change for BLL‘s first season.
“It was submitted and qualified as a limited series. Nominations voting is already underway. It will remain in the limited series category for this year,” a rep for SAG told Deadline.
Voting already has closed for the Golden Globes nominations, which will be announced on Monday, followed by SAG Awards nominations later in the week.
There have been precedents. Hit BBC/PBS period drama Downton Abbey drew eyebrows when it competed as a miniseries in its first season, sweeping the 2011 Emmy longform categories, even though it already had been renewed for a second season. It moved to the drama series starting with Season 2.
Ryan Murphy used the anthology nature of his American Horror Story to successfully petition the TV Academy, whose Awards Committee and Board of Governors in 2012 ruled that AHS was eligible for both the Drama Series and Miniseries categories despite having filmed a pilot. FX opted to submit the series, as well as its subsequent offshoot, American Crime Story, and another anthology, Feud, as miniseries/limited series.
Meanwhile, HBO’s 2014 anthology True Detective was submitted as a drama series from the get-go upon request from creator Nic Pizzolatto, despite the fact that the first installment, conceived as a one-off limited series, had a self-contained story with a cast and characters that did not continue.
The adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies cleaned up a the Emmys, winning eight in all including Best Limited Series (Witherspoon earned a statuette as an executive producer) and Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for star/exec producer Nicole Kidman.
The 29th Annual Producers Guild Awards will be held on January 20, 2018, with Murphy set to receive the 2018 Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television.