Netflix’s new TV show about ballet students with a secret sent my head into a pirouette. Not because the show confused me: Tiny Pretty Things is another soap about a bunch of hot twentysomethings playing horny, menacing teens. Rather, I couldn’t remember the show’s title.
I kept asking friends if they watched Pretty Little Liars. Of course, they had. Years ago, in fact. The teen soap about a bunch of high schoolers harboring deep secrets came out in 2010, when ABC Family was still called ABC Family. My overstuffed brain couldn’t make sense that a decade later, a new show about a bunch of high schoolers also harboring deep secrets but doing so in ballet flats could have such a similar title. The difference between Pretty Little Liars and Tiny Pretty Things is a big thing my pretty little brain can’t parse.
This isn’t the first time I’ve confused a TV show or movie based on similar titles. In Hollywood, there are the little things and the little lies (the latter of which is also big). Some things are tiny and pretty, while others require a map to find the tiny and perfect things. There are also a million little things, a million little pieces and — if you could believe it — just one collective group of little pieces. Some things are stranger, while other things I’m thinking of ending. Some things that are little are pretty liars, while others are everywhere fires.
I sure am.
For every new TV show and movie premiering across streaming services, cable networks and the vintage concept of a movie theater, titles are increasingly hard to parse. There’s too much content and not enough word configurations. There are simply too many things. So let me help you parse through all the big and little; tiny and pretty; million and singular things (and lies) you’re bound to watch. Think of it as seven degrees of things.
The most recent thing is The Little Things, a new movie on HBOMax starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. Couldn’t tell you much about this film because I haven’t seen it yet, but someone in the Hollywood Foreign Press has — Leto somehow snagged a Golden Globe nomination earlier this week. (Note, a GG nomination does not mean it’s worth watching. Emily in Paris is up for Best Musical or Comedy TV Show.)
As mentioned, there’s Tiny Pretty Things, Netflix’s series about chiseled ballet dancers with even sharper secrets. Netflix also released the movie I’m Thinking of Ending Things last year. Director Charlie Kauffman is best known for his screenplays with very specific titles — Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He opted to keep the rather vague title for his adaption of Ian Reid’s novel of the same. He should’ve called his Netflix movie Toni Collette Is Great in It because that’s all I have to say about the film.
Finally, on Netflix, there’s Stranger Things, which is another teen soap but this time of the science-fiction and 1980s-nostalgia variety. This one you probably can identify correctly.
To confuse you a bit more, though, let’s jump over to HBO. Big Little Lies (which you can also watch on HBOMax) stars Reese Witherspoon and a bunch of other wealthy actresses suffering in million-dollar seaside mansions. It’s easy to mix up that show with Witherspoon’s other show where she plays a meddling wealthy suburban woman (of the 1990s and Midwest variety) in a story adapted from an acclaimed novel, Little Fires Everywhere. The easy way to tell them apart is Little Fires Everywhere is on Hulu and co-stars Kerry Washington.
Now, it’s important to remember that Big Little Lies is not A Million Little Things. This latter series is an ABC family drama also about meddling parents that you also might mistake for This Is Us. All I know about A Million Little Things is that its posters used to be all over MTA bus stops, and it co-stars Grace Park (formerly of Hawaii Five-O and the NXIVM cult).
Still with me? Because here’s where it gets tricky. A Million Little Things is not the adaption of James Frey’s maligned memoir novel A Million Little Pieces. The novel, once billed as a memoir, was adapted in a 2018 film by Sam Taylor-Johnson (50 Shades of Grey). Both the movie and the book are largely gauche today, so instead enjoy the searing clip of Oprah Winfrey holding Frey accountable on her talk show.
It’s a lot of things to remember.
Unfortunately, we’re not out of the big little woods just yet. Hunter Biden’s book Beautiful Things comes out this spring. Also, Amazon’s Prime Video will release the science-fiction teen romcom The Map of Tiny Perfect Things on February 12th, and it stars Kathryn Newton, who played Witherspoon’s oldest daughter on Big Little Lies. (She’s also great in the underrated comedy slasher Freaky.) Truthfully, unless the movie is about a map to deciphering all these infuriatingly similar titles, I don’t want it. And that’s one thing I won’t budge on.