HomeStreamingThe hit “Bad Sisters”? Sharon Horgan on Reviews Edition Season 2 – IndieWire
The hit “Bad Sisters”? Sharon Horgan on Reviews Edition Season 2 – IndieWire
June 22, 2023
Welcome to It’s a Hit! In this series, IndieWire talks to the creators and showrunners behind some of our favorite television shows about the moment they realized their show was going to make it big.
Sharon Horgan has achieved success for her age. After breaking through in 2006 with cult favorite and two-time BAFTA nominee Pulling, the English-born, Irish-raised writer and actor teamed up for a sharp-tongued and moving modern rom-com in Catastrophe, Prime. Original Video and Channel 4, which earned Horgan his first Emmy nomination. Since then, he’s produced a three-season series for HBO (“Divorce”), won two more BAFTAs (for “Homeland”) and launched Merman, a production company with offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.
Now she’s helming the dark comedy thriller Bad Sisters for Apple TV+, about five sisters who vow to protect each other after their parents’ untimely deaths — and how that promise is tested when they decide to kill one of their abusive husbands.
When it comes to awards, “Bad Sisters” already rivals Horgan’s biggest hit. Grayling IMDB“Catastrophe” brought in 12 wins and 21 nominations in four seasons, while the one-hour black comic drama already has eight wins (including three BAFTAs and a Peabody) and 24 nominations – after just one season. and before it had a chance to compete at the Emmys.
Still, in today’s world of unverified ratings reports and opaque ratings announcements, it’s hard to tell how many people have seen “Bad Sisters.” Did you hit me? If so, how big? Following the example of its secretive parent company, Apple TV+ hardly knows the viewership of its shows, but a positive sign has already arrived: the renewal of the 2nd season. Less than a month after the first season finale aired, Apple announced the return of the Garvey clan.
Horgan is already writing the scripts for Season 2, but he took a break to talk to IndieWire about the trajectory of his latest Emmy contender, from initial presentation to continued reception — and what he’s heard from Apple about those oh-so-precious about evaluations.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
IndieWire: As an adaptation, what did the pitch to Apple mean for “Bad Sisters”?
Sharon Horgan: Apple approached me to do the show. Jay Hunt, head of Apple TV+ in Europe and the UK, was a fan of the original Belgian series, so he brought it to me. Obviously I loved it, but I had never converted anything before. Our company, Merman, had to make it, and it was our first big class (long program), so they didn’t just want to say “Goodbye.” First we had to write our pilot script. We put together a room because with the pilot script we had to bring them a piece of how we would tell the series and make it our own. What was my version of the story, but also what is Apple’s version of this adaptation? We had to settle for it being like an Apple show.
We wanted to change the style of comedy, No. 1. We wanted it to feel much more like a world that you recognize. We wanted to believe in the sisters and the situations they find themselves in, and we wanted the stakes to be really high in that we’re not just worried about them getting caught, but what’s going to happen to their relationship. Instead of saving their sister, will he tear them all apart? We wanted a lot less attempted murder and a lot more emotional collateral damage.
We’ve made this map of where we’re going to put it in Ireland because all of our different locations are far apart. Some were in Belfast, some were in Dublin, some were in Wicklow, some were in London and some were in Apple studios, so we just had to show them the world as we saw it. It took a while—I think we had to write a second script then—but then it was greenlit and we were going full steam ahead.
Was anything you ended up making drastically different from the track?
Yes. Quite much. Things are constantly changing. We presented the Garveys in a completely different way. We met them as young kids in our original story idea – we actually shot it. What was really interesting was their origins and when they lost their parents and who took what role and when. Not that we’re going to show that on screen, but we did a lot of head work and a lot of character work around that and how they became the people they are, so we wanted to show what brought them together in this extraordinary way. a close unit that would always look out for each other.
There’s that scene at the end of the first episode where they’re sitting around the fire saying, “You can’t find out what we’ve done,” and “We’ll always look out for each other.” They all hold hands and Éva holds out her hand and Bibi says “I’m not doing it now.” Then he says, “Come on.” It was because we had a scene at the beginning where they were very young and they were all doing the same thing. It happened after some traumatic event. So we had a completely different intro, and then by the time we put it together, it was amazing on so many levels, but it wasn’t really necessary. And in some ways it was a little confusing because you were trying to figure out which sister was who, and we felt like we had to hit the ground running. Once the audience sees that The Prick is dead, they want to find out what happened and meet all the sisters.
Which we now felt was a good introduction to the tone. We’ve always had to market ourselves as a drama that has black comedy in it. Sometimes the show can be a little exhausting, and sometimes it really pushes it, both dramatically and comically. The scene we cut was a little too dramatic to fit the tone of the whole thing.
Was there a moment before the premiere of “Bad Sisters” when you felt like you had something special? Where did you feel you found an audience?
When I saw the sisters together – when I saw their chemistry alive and well. That’s a big part of it: when you feel the vibe and their magic together. The big fear was, “Will people get involved in trying to kill me repeatedly? Will we be able to hold an audience and love the sisters enough to go with them and remain sympathetic and hate her enough to want to see them keep trying? There was definitely a point when we were in the middle of filming—we had a few episodes in the cut and we were starting to prepare for the paintball scene—and I thought, “This is really fun. I’ve certainly never done anything like this before.” I haven’t seen anything like this outside of the original Belgian version, and I thought if they got behind the people and still connected with them as characters, we’d win a little bit.
But it’s hard to know, isn’t it? A huge amount of content has been created. An powerful amount of TV produced. How do you stand out in that sea? How do you get to the last six shows or whatever people are talking about? Nonsense. It’s about human relationships, isn’t it? But it’s also about timing, don’t you think? It’s a bit of what people expect back then.
So when did you realize it was working? How was he out in the world, did he find an audience?
It took a while. It was a bit of a slow burn. By the time we got to Episodes 7 and 8, that’s when the audience really started to build, and by the time we went back to the States to promote the finale, we were like, “Jeez, everybody knows this show.” So I think we were very fortunate that we were released week by week, so it had a chance to build and people had a chance to speculate—to try to figure out who did it and how he did it and how he ended up dying. So the benefit of the thriller was that it moved us forward and made people speak.
Did you get any feedback from Apple during the launch? How many people watched it, or what metrics did they use to measure its success?
Everyone keeps this information very close, but the most important thing they gave me was that it grew every week. The numbers doubled significantly week on week and worldwide, so that was exciting. That makes a big difference.
Is getting viewership information important to you? Want more transparency about how many people are watching?
Yes, I think so. Important for me. In some cases, it can take up to three years to write, shoot and produce a show, and the least is to get an audience to watch it. Of course, the first show I ever did, the characters were tiny, but the people who loved it lovely that. It becomes a cult point of view, and it’s fun when someone finds that show and feels part of that little band. But not good for leftovers. Green-lighting your next project is no good.
I feel like it’s always been my quest to make things that have a wider appeal, if I’m honest. I loved writing slightly cult stuff, but deep down I always wanted as many people as possible to sit around and watch it on their TVs on a Friday night.
You rightfully credit the cast, writers and crew for the show’s success — as do audiences around the world — but are there any other factors that you feel really helped “Bad Sisters” break out?
There was also Ireland. I really think there’s something to capturing a modern Ireland on screen – not trying to be too cheesy, not trying to be too sentimental, just showing this crazy, beautiful little country. There was an escape in it. We weren’t being too pushy, we were giving people a place to escape and imagine themselves—imagine themselves in that big family and imagine what it would be like to kill the person they’re sitting across from. the dinner table.
Thank my lucky stars it didn’t have to be set in Ireland. It was just an idea I had. I think it was when I was watching the original and I started thinking about my own very large family and it just felt like the right place for that. And then it goes the Forty Feet and continues, “We have to put this on the screen because I’ve never seen anything like it.” There were a lot of little things that drove us towards the shoot and I feel like that made a big difference.
I don’t want spoilers, but before I let you go, is there anything you’d like to share about Season 2?
Well, I’m writing now. As soon as I hang up the phone, I spend another half hour, then I take my kid to soccer. It’s fun to be back in this world, and yes, I can’t wait to go back to the Forty Foot, even though it’s freezing.