Tuesday, August 03, 2021

WHITE LOTUS - my review

As many of you know, I love Hawaii.  Try to get there every year.   I did a show set in Hawaii and got to write off trips (although that’s not why I did the show… entirely).  I’ll watch just about any TV show or movie set in Hawaii.  I have a very low bar.  Show palm trees, the ocean, maybe a waterfall and I’m all in.  You want to throw in a tacky Don Ho song?  Doesn’t ruin it.  A Tab Hunter beach party movie?  Sure.  I even sat through the first two seasons of the awful HAWAII FIVE-O reboot.  

So when I heard there was this new limited series coming to HBO Max about a resort hotel in Hawaii set at the Four Seasons in Maui (one of my favorite haunts) I was excited.  I didn’t need Aaron Sorkin dialogue, Vince Gilligan storytelling, just a few glimpses of the pool area.  Like I said, I’m easy.

So with great anticipation I set aside last Saturday night to watch a few episodes of this new series, entitled WHITE LOTUS.  I turned it off after a half hour.   I turned it off during a scene at the pool.  

That’s how much I hated it.  

And in fact, I hate it even more.  I can’t remember the last time I hated a TV show as much.  Every character is just despicable.  This is the most cynical mean-spirited show on whatever constitutes for “television” these days.  The hotel management has utter contempt for every guest.  Every guest is so entitled and so obnoxious that Mother Teresa would give them the finger.  In particular, two teenage girls are so snotty, judgemental, and insufferable you just want to punch them in the face.  Imagine Romy & Michele as see-you-next-Tuesdays.   

Only one character is likable and we're led to believe in the first five minutes that she dies over the course of a week.  

Astoundingly, this show is billed as a “comedy.”  It’s a satire-comedy.  Such hilarity as a local Hawaiian woman so afraid of losing her job that she’s afraid to say she’s about to have a baby any minute.  Big yucks as her water breaks in the lobby and she’s still too petrified to say she’s about to give birth.  Meanwhile, things are not great with newlyweds when the husband (a hideous Matt Gaetz-type) is dissatisfied with this amazing suite they have because it’s not “the honeymoon suite.”  By the way, his parents are paying for the trip.  He further endears himself by demanding his bride give him a blowjob.  Are you laughing yet?  

The two teen c***s are staying with Connie Britton who plays a Sheryl Sandberg stereotype.  One c**t is the daughter and the other is her friend.  They also have a little brother who they make sleep in the kitchen.  And the dad is worried he has testicular cancer and we’re treated to close ups of his swollen genitals.  

The show was created, written, and directed by Mike White.

Is this where comedy is today?  We’re supposed to be amused by how hateful everyone is?   The hotel manager is the destitute man’s John Cleese, passive-aggressively screwing the guests who we can only assume overpaid for this screwing.  

And then there’s Jennifer Coolidge, who I normally like, playing a pathetic needy woman who keeps her mother’s remains in a plastic bag.  Somehow I’m missing the satire.  

What happens to these people?  How does the young newlywed bride die? I don’t give a shit.  Unless sharks eat the teenage c***s, there’s a tsunami, and the Hawaiian government seizes the property, I have no intention of watching another minute of it.  WHITE LOTUS is not the right title.  It should be called Mike WHITE LOATHE-US. 

Aloha forever. 

51 comments :

E. Yarber said...

Your description of this story sounds very familiar to me. There's a subset of scripts written from the assumption that general loathing for people is a shortcut to actual psychological insight.

Total said...

So, Ken, how'd you feel about it?

ventucky said...

I watched the 4 available episodes yesterday. I really enjoyed it. BTW, I am almost positive the newlywed wife DOES NOT die. She likely left the jerk, and my money is that his mother, Molly Shannon, dies. What I like about it is aside from the teenage girls, most characters are decidedly complex. The ones you immediately feel some empathy for make poor choices, and the ones you immediately dislike show humanity from time to time. It is not a typical comedy in any manner, black, satirical, nor certainly LOL. But it becomes an evolving train wreck where I am interested to see where it goes.

Andrew said...

Ken,
Here's my favorite video from Hawaii, to get your mind off everything that sucks (on and off the TV).
https://youtu.be/V1bFr2SWP1I

Stuart said...

I'm enjoying it. Yes, the characters are for the most part unlikeable. But they're not unwatchable. Some are cringe-worthy, others you just hate. But it's an interesting story, and makes for compulsive viewing.

PS: We don't know who dies. You're making an assumption based on incomplete data.

repoob said...

I agree with you Ken, about 99.9% of the time, and will love you always. But I enjoy this show. Yes, many of the characters are unlikable, and a few, like the teen girls are downright terrible. But I wish you had given it a few more views. I'm through 4 of the 6 episodes, and I'm hooked. First, I don't think the newlywed bride is "for sure" the dead person. Might be, might not. The hotel manager is a complicated, flawed character, but one heck of a fun actor to watch. Steve Zahn's character is a hoot. Jennifer Coolidge is amazing, and in episode 4, she provided a laugh-out-loud moment that may be the best of her career. The newlywed guy's ongoing feud with the manager has been fun to watch. The writing is mostly clever, and of course the scenery is spectacular. I wouldn't put it in the league of "Mare of Easttown" but it's been a good summer distraction.

Jeff said...

It is disappointing to me that someone who should know better is trashing a show after not even completing an episode. I don't blame anyone for watching 15 minutes of a show and saying "It's not for me" and turning it off, but why write a column burying a six episode limited series when you haven't even completed the first episode? And it isn't clear who the dead character is so you must not have been paying very close attention. I've seen two episodes and am very intrigued about what comes next. I find it very funny but I can see how its humor will be lost on some (that's usually the nature of Mike White's work).

Roger Owen Green said...

I haven't watched it, so I have no opinion.
But if you hated it for 30 minutes, that's good enough for you. Others may enjoy it, but it's not like there is a dearth of programming out there. I'm not one to work so hard because it's SUPPOSED to be good for you. That comedy reminds me of GHW Bush, who said about broccoli that he hates it and doesn't care that it's "good" for him.

Dixon Steele said...

I think you set a record for how many c****s appear in one of your postings.

Might anyone have some spare sativa you can send over to Ken to mellow out?

Necco said...

I have watched every episode, so far. I'm not a fan.

("Spoiler"?)

OK, that Episode 4 "ending" (ha!)... The guy manages a HOTEL, and can't take the employee to a ROOM, to administer a rim job? (The first simulation of which I've seen in mainstream film/TV, by the way.)

The characters are indeed annoying - yes, the two twenty-somethings are awful.

Jake Lacy is pure cartoon material.

Typical Mike White stuff.

Fred Vogel said...

You tolerated the show for ten minutes longer than my wife and I were able to. Absolutely horrible.

lizfinnarnold said...

I think anytime a show invokes so much passion --whether pro or con-- it is doing its job. It's pushing our buttons. Yes, maybe it went too far too fast and it alienated too many people up front. But I do find as the episodes progress we do see more complexity. Nobody is written as one-dimensional evil. Even the newlywed husband, while an entitled douche, is written with enough awareness to know he is being an entitled douche.

I think part of what this show does so well is it makes us all feel guilty for the ways in which we've probably behaving poorly while on vacation. For many of us, vacation is the only time we get to pamper ourselves, live larger than life, and demand the very best. But it means we've probably treated the workers poorly or barely acknowledged their humanity. This show indicts us all -- not just the super-rich, and I think that's what makes it so uncomfortable to watch.

It would be easier to say: we're not like that. And most of the time were aren't rude and demanding in our real lives. But I bet many of us in vacation mode become demanding tyrants, wanting exactly what we paid for and demanding upgrades and perks. I think this is the type of show you have to watch multiple times to truly appreciate.

Tad said...

Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. Can HBO produce a single show without unnecessary sex scenes? And please don’t tell me to go watch Hallmark. Surely there can be non-gratuitous programs on other networks. It’s getting to the point that Hollywood should just start making actual porn.

Mike said...

"I’ll watch just about any TV show or movie set in Hawaii. I have a very low bar."
A professional comedy writer and you miss the limbo joke.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

This is . . . pretty much what the state of "comedy" has been for the past couple of decades or so. So many characters are downright unlikable anymore these days, but that supposedly is what makes them "real" and "believable" according to the "experts."

Brian Phillips said...

I will take a look at this, but from your description, it sounds like the creative talent had bad experiences in the hospitality field and decided to take it out on the prospective audience.

This is WHOLLY speculation on my part, but I have seen some shows that seem to smack of someone with an axe to grind. I got the same feeling from the short-lived show, "The Boys Are Back", one of a mini-wave of shows that featured adult children that had returned or never left the nest.

I can imagine the creator saying, "White Lotus" is a hit and take THAT Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jones of Oak Park, Illinois! NOW who's fired for rudeness?"

Michael said...

Ken, I love your writing, but was bothered by the use of the c-word in this post. Just because you censor the word yourself doesn't make it acceptable.

"Imagine Romy & Michele as see-you-next-Tuesdays." -- I thought this was OK, but the later bits went too far.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's me. I'm not a f***ing prude, but I feel like you could have used a better word there.

Will S said...

You're usually the one defending any and all comedies with jokes, and this show has character-based jokes, so this was an odd take. White Lotus is freaking hilarious. And are you conscious that you just called teenage girl characters c***s.

Call Me Mike said...

I haven't seen this show (and probably won't thanks to your review), but you bring up a good point. It really helps to have at least one likable or semi-likable character to follow in these things.

All the characters in Seinfeld were selfish, sometimes downright despicable people, but I still found myself liking them most of the time. And when it comes to bitter, gonzo, all out satire, look at the original RoboCop. If the title character were as selfish and mean-spirited as the corrupt world he's fighting, the movie would be really hard to watch. Who am I rooting for?

Stella said...

I'm really glad a couple people here have pointed out your repeated use of the word 'cunts' when referring to teenage girls. Not cool.

Jeff said...

If you tune in to see Hawaii, I am not sure if this is even the show for you. The photography is very washed-out so the scenery isn't very appealing.

Craig Russell said...

For Jeff....

It IS his blog. He has artistic license. He can trash whatever he chooses. Its not a review for the Post or the Times or Variety. Its one human who has an outlet giving his opinion..

Viscount Manzeppi said...


Anonymous Michael said...
Ken, I love your writing, but was bothered by the use of the c-word in this post. Just because you censor the word yourself doesn't make it acceptable.

"Imagine Romy & Michele as see-you-next-Tuesdays." -- I thought this was OK, but the later bits went too far.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's me. I'm not a f***ing prude, but I feel like you could have used a better word there.

To which I reply:

If the adjective fits...

Viscount Manzeppi said...

Joseph Scarbrough said...
This is . . . pretty much what the state of "comedy" has been for the past couple of decades or so. So many characters are downright unlikable anymore these days, but that supposedly is what makes them "real" and "believable" according to the "experts."

Drama, too, sadly.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I don't find it remotely funny, but I *am* curious how the show's plots are going to pan out. And I *really* like a lot of the music.

I would really love to know, though, what people see in Jennifer Coolidge. I've found her insufferable in everything I've seen her in (which fortunately isn't much). Here, I spend her scenes considering how I'd recast her part.

wg

Viscount Manzeppi said...

E. Yarber said...
Your description of this story sounds very familiar to me. There's a subset of scripts written from the assumption that general loathing for people is a shortcut to actual psychological insight.

Unfortunately, that's become an enormous subsection.

Russ DiBello said...

So let me get this straight: you didn't care for it?

True confessions: I like it!

First of all: big Steve Zahn fan. Met him once. Nice fella. And kudos to the cinematographer who devises his camera angles, if you catch my drift .

But as a perspiring Actor, I am blown away by Jake Lacy, who probably was the embodiment of "despicable" that sent you over the top. There is nothing more inspirational to me than a perfect villain, and this actor is the "Neidermeyer" of the 21st century (props to the original Mark Metcalf, also a genius!)..If a male could be a "Karen", Mike White built one with "Shane Patton".

As for your bailing on the series, come on, man... aren't you dying to know if his nice young bride really IS dead?

MikeKPa. said...

I was looking for something good to watch on Amazon Prime last night and made the mistake of clicking on 10 Minutes Gone. Bruce Willis was in it and it looks like he's entered into the Nick Cage realm of taking any part. The movie is a lesson in how not to do character or plot exposition. Willis explains everything in the first 10 minutes, after which I was gone. And the director shot it like a poor man's Guy Ritchie, which only made it more laughable. Amazed at how much bad content the streaming services have bought.

Kevin from VA said...

Ken

I previously asked (which you answered, thanks!) if you regretted any post you've published in your blog.

Might today's column, at some point give you pause?

By Ken Levine said...

No.

MikeN said...

newlyweds dissatisfied because it’s not “the honeymoon suite.”

Friends did this. Another couple offered them their room saying they didn't care about the free stuff just being in love. Chandler, "We want the free stuff."

Brandon in Virginia said...

Your description is why I hate what passes for comedy nowadays. For some reason, writers think making everyone snarky, cynical assholes is funny. I see enough of that on social media. For some reason you reminded me of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which is also set in Hawaii and also features a bunch of people I'd hate to know in real life. But this seems to be the sort of thing HBO loves.

Making one character an antagonist of sorts just or super sarcastic (Carla from "Cheers", Ted Baxter, etc.) is fine. The entire cast? Turn.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Ken, I like you and I love your work, but a certain mean spiritedness has come across in some of your recent posts, like the one on Mike Myers and now this. I swear like a trooper and have no problem with the C word, but referring to these girls as that word four times feels excessively harsh and disproportionate. If you were talking about Kimberly Guilfoyle or Lauren Boebert, however, 400 uses of the C word wouldn't be enough.

I certainly won't suggest you should regret the post. It's your blog and you can post whatever you like. I just thought, as a fan, you might appreciate some feedback that you seem a bit angry lately.

YEKIMI said...

So he used an alleged expletive describing some girls. As far as I can discern, you all have filthy minds. There were *** in there so it could also mean: CACAS CADES CADIS CAESE CAFES CAFFS CAGES CAIDS CAINS CAKES CALFS CALKS CALLS CALMS CALOS CALPS CAMAS CAMES CAMIS CAMOS CAMPS CAMUS CANES CANGS CANNS CANTS CAPAS CAPES CAPHS CAPOS CARBS CARDS CARES CARKS CARLS CARNS CARPS CARRS CARSE CARTS CASAS CASES CASKS CASTE CASTS CASUS CATES CAUKS CAULS CAUMS CAUPS CAVAS CAVES CAWKS CEDES CEDIS CEILS CELLS CELTS CENSE CENTS CEPES CERES CEROS CERTS CESSE CESTA CESTI CETES CHADS CHAIS CHALS CHAMS CHAOS CHAPS CHARS CHATS CHAVS CHAWS CHAYS CHEFS CHESS CHEST CHEWS CHIAS CHIBS CHICS CHIKS CHINS CHIPS CHITS CHIVS CHOCS CHOGS CHONS CHOPS CHOWS CHUBS CHUGS CHUMS CHUSE CIAOS CIDES CIELS CILLS CINES CIONS CIRCS CIRES CIRLS CISTS CITES CIVES CLADS CLAES CLAGS CLAMS CLANS CLAPS CLASS CLATS CLAWS CLAYS CLEFS CLEGS CLEMS CLEWS CLIES CLIPS CLODS CLOGS CLONS CLOPS CLOTS CLOUS CLOWS CLOYS CLUBS CLUES COALS COATS COBBS COCAS COCKS COCOS CODAS CODES COEDS COFFS COHOS COIFS COILS COINS COIRS COITS COKES COLAS COLDS COLES COLLS COLTS COMAS COMBS COMES COMMS COMPS COMUS CONES CONFS CONKS CONNS CONUS COOFS COOKS COOLS COOMS COONS COOPS COOST COOTS COPES CORDS CORES CORKS CORMS CORNS CORPS CORSE CORSO COSEC COSED COSES COSET COSEYS COSTS COTES COTHS COTTS COUPS COURS COVES COWKS COWLS COWPS COXES COZES CRABS CRAGS CRAMS CRANS CRAPS CRASH CRASS CRAWS CRAYS CREDS CREES CREMS CRESS CREST CREWS CRIBS CRIES CRIMS CRIOS CRITS CROCS CROGS CROPS CROSS CROWS CRUDS CRUES CUBES CUFFS CUIFS CUITS CUKES CULLS CULMS CULTS CURBS CURDS CURES CURFS CURLS CURNS CURRS CUSKS CUSPS CUSSO CUTES CUTIS CYANS CYCAS CYMAS CYMES CYSTS CYTES CZARS

Lance said...

Ken, you are becoming EXTREMELY predictable.

I could have written this review for you (minus the excessive C-words) just from seeing the headine, "White Lotus: My Review."

Good heavens, the characters aren't LIKABLE! Pass me my fainting couch and hand fan.

Lorimartian said...

I'll watch until the bitter end, wavering in my "enjoyment." Re the hotel manager, if he couldn't find a room, would have at least locked his office door. That he didn't was just lazy storytelling. I know, he was supposed to be too intoxicated to think about it, and it was after hours. I didn't buy it. I do love the scenery, and the background art behind the credits is gorgeous.

I'm Outraged! said...

He didn't call anyone, including any teenage girls, a 'cunt', you idiotically oversensitive simple minded deluded keyboard warriors, he was referring to fictional characters, *they don't actually exist*.

Big Murr said...

"Shows should push our buttons"...pushing buttons is creative process with clever insights and metaphors. Shows like this, and far too many others on the current menu, aren't "pushing buttons". They're swinging a sledgehammer like at the old carny game, wild-eyed and fantastically desperate to ring the bell at the top, but nowhere near strong enough to do so. They'll throw out whatever gratuitous scene comes to mind for a quick, sharp shock value and nothing more.

Necco said...

@ Lorimartian

Yes, that whole sex-in-the-office thing is ludicrous. I worked my way through college, in the 80s, as a front desk clerk at several large hotels (Miami and LA). There is NO way in HELL, the manager would have had sex in an unlocked office, no matter how coked out he was. The second that scene started to unfold, I was pissed. Indeed "lazy storytelling." Contrivance.

And I don't find Jake Lacy remotely, as some sort of genius "bad guy." He's stupidly obnoxious. No cunning there.

David Riche said...

Unlikeable characters have become a trend in TV lately, and I find it lazy. The creators are trying to copy trends set by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, or even dramas like Better Call Saul or Mad Men. If characters are mean, their situations must still be believable or relatable, or they must have some humanity deep underneath. These qualities take talent in writing. Just creating c***s and a*holes behaving badly isn't comedy. By the way, I turned off Hacks for the same reason, and you liked that show. I can only imagine how much worse White Lotus must be.

Tom Galloway said...

Going back to Jeopardy! for a moment, David also impressed me by knowing how to do contestant interviews. Which is Host: Player: Host: . David isn't at the level of Alex's deadpan comments, but it took Alex years to hit that level.

Most of the rest of the guest hosts it went like Host: Player: Host: .

Jim said...

I love it. The class turns on the teacher. Teacher doesn’t flinch.

(I don’t really love it. I was a teacher. Was. Maybe a class turned and maybe I flinched. Maybe not.)

brian t said...

The review in The Guardian is all about the social message, and is only interested in the rest of the show as a vehicle for delivering the message/. No thanks - as if we haven't already had the "you're privileged" message hammered in to us from all directions, regardless of whether it's actually true or not. Quote:

"But in the unsparing hands of Mike White, Enlightened’s creator, a balmy idea of heaven quickly becomes a clammy vision of hell and a promised getaway for us, and the characters of The White Lotus, takes us closer to, rather than further away from, the many problems that so many of us have been grappling with. Sipping cocktails by the pool and learning to scuba-dive are soon replaced with uneasy discussions about race, consent and privilege, with no one let off the hook, including us."

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Yeah, I think you're allowed to use any expletives you want about fictional characters. That said, I do think the last four years have reset the bar. "Lying sacks of shit" just aren't what they used to be.

tvfats said...

You got the troops all stirred up with THIS review...Good job!

kenju said...

Makes me glad we don't have HBO any longer.

Terry Harvey said...

I don't necessarily disagree with you Ken, but still a small bit of context may be in order but mind you this is not meant as an excuse for a bad show if it indeed is simply that. Don't believe they are presenting this as a comedy per se, occasional humorous flurries perhaps, but most certainly a dark satire as the LATimes accurately(I believe) describes it. The show an HBO rush job too, written and into production in only several months and that is obvious. Plus the Covid burden of production that for the most part traps the setting in the luxury resort, thus robbing us Hawaii fans to see much if any of the island splendor. So a lot going against this 6 episode quickie and obviously not much mass appeal on many of the levels you have pointed out. I think of it as sort of an old network summer replacement type show, probably not a tremendous expectation of another HBO standout production at the top level there, and HBO seems currently stretched a bit thin with their programming and it shows here with a not worthy Sunday night time slot series. But I am watching anyway and hopeful there will be some sort of payoff in the last couple of episodes, aloha!

Malaspina said...

Ken, the frightening thing it is even worse than your review. I wasted an hour of my life watching the first episode. Just plain rubbish.

Scott Mumford said...

Ken, our tastes overlap quite a bit--but not on this one. This show is right behind Ted Lasso on my list of look-forward-to-watching-each-week. The 'despicable' characters are the point. Mike is 'punching-up' at these rich, entitled weasels...

I think the casting is wonderful (especially Jennifer Coolidge), and the music superb.

Leighton said...

Oh, GOD, they renewed a second season. I hate this show. I made it through all of the episodes. Stupid people, doing stupid things.

Casting is AWFUL. "Despicable characters are the point"? Nope.

It's idiotic, on so many levels.

Rob said...

I'm watching it now. I'm going to stick it out, but I'm shocked at the people calling it brilliant satire and comedy. It's neither.