Brow Beat

Why Olive Kitteridge Might Be the Best Thing That Airs on HBO This Year

Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins.


It’s clear, after the success of shows like Fargo and Top of the Lake, that the miniseries is having a moment. The genre’s latest entry is HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, which comprises 13 interconnected stories set in coastal Maine. We’ve seen some teasers for the show, but they’ve mostly traded in atmosphere and set-up, and little was shown of the title character—an abrasive schoolteacher struggling with depression and a splintered family. The new trailer is a more expansive peek at the series, which looks like the best programming HBO will have this year.

That’s a bold claim, but one supported by the stacked cast—Frances McDormand as Kitteridge, and the ever-superb Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray in supporting roles. The real draw, though, is director Lisa Cholodenko.* The Oscar-nominated mind behind The Kids Are All Right, Cholodenko possesses an uncanny skill in developing characters, especially the flawed and complex women that populate both Kids and Kitteridge. She’s the perfect person to take on the book’s sprawling portrait of small-town relationships, and I expect her adaptation to be some of this year’s best television. Kitteridge premieres Nov. 2.

Correction, Oct. 7, 2014: This post originally misspelled the Lisa Cholodenko’s last name.