The White Lotus, HBO Max
Although Mike White’s new series is set at the posh, isolated Hawaiian resort of the title (actually, the Four Seasons in Maui) and filled with shapely bodies and buttery light, nearly all the hotel’s guests and employees have souls rotting at the core, much like the illustrated fruit in the opening credits.
White is not interested in merely presenting a contemporary Eden as Hell. He truly adores the emotional wrecks of American society, whether they’re rich or proletarian, pitiable or obnoxious (or both). Not surprisingly, White, screenwriter of Chuck & Buck and School of Rock, was a contestant on the reality shows Survivor and The Amazing Race, in which the queer Mike was paired with his dad, Mel, a religious right figure who later came out as gay.
The six hour-long episodes of The White Lotus, all written and directed by White, introduce us to three groups of guests: handsome newlyweds (Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario), a bourgeois family (Steve Zahn and Connie Britton are the mom and dad), and a daffy older woman carrying her mother’s ashes (Jennifer Coolidge). Their hosts are a team led by Armond (Provincetown home owner Murray Bartlett), who smile, scheme, and only half-suppress their fury.
The story begins at the end, with rumors of a murder circulating at the airport and a box labeled “human remains” loaded onto a plane. Lacy, the honeymoon husband, is alone. That propels an extended flashback thick with sex, drugs, and haunting music. Despite bad behavior by characters who are often grotesque, The White Lotus is engaging and exquisitely performed. Everyone embodies White’s insistent mix of selfishness and self-awareness, hurt and wonder. —Howard Karren
Ginny & Georgia, Netflix
“We’re like the Gilmore Girls but with bigger boobs,” says Georgia (Brianne Howey) to her 15-year-old daughter, Ginny (Antonia Gentry), in the first episode of Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia. The show is also darker and more chaotic.
The 10-episode crime dramedy has this mother-daughter duo navigating a recent move to a rich, picturesque Massachusetts town. At first, it’s hard to pin down what the show is trying to do. There are teen romances, parties, and PTA meetings, but also extorted checks, flashbacks of secret siblings, and a murder.
While the plot can feel haywire, the nuances of the characters’ day-to-day lives feel genuine. Ginny, whose mom is white and dad is Black, faces microaggressions in a school where the environment is like “living in a Crest commercial.” Georgia finally admits to herself (and to Ginny) the abuse she suffered as a child. Ginny’s new best friend, Maxine (Sara Waisglass), navigates her queerness in cringy encounters, a first relationship, and, just a few episodes later, a dramatic breakup.
All the while, Georgia, with her pretty Southern accent, drops iconic one-liners. My favorite: “You win more flies with honey, but if you get yourself a bee, sting first!” —Michaela Chesin
Ted Lasso, Apple TV
You’ve probably heard that Apple TV’s Ted Lasso is about the foibles of the titular American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) as he moves to London to coach what we Yankees call “soccer.” He admits to a pressroom packed with skeptical reporters, “Heck, you could fill two internets with what I don’t know about football.”
But you probably haven’t heard that it is also the story of Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), who won ownership of AFC Richmond in an ugly, overpublicized divorce from the narcissistic Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head). Welton hires Lasso to tank the team as revenge for Mannion cheating on her.
What follows is a tale of friendship, hope amidst grief, and true accountability (even if that means admitting to your new coach that you hired him intending he’d fail).
Ted Lasso manages to achieve optimism and feel-good-ism without sacrificing brutal honesty about human fallibility. Whether we mean to or not, we’re bound to hurt each other — what matters is how we help each other get back out on the pitch. —Abbey Dwight
Succession, HBO Max
Succession grabbed me from the very first episode, but what clinched it — now for three seasons and counting — was the second episode with its vulgar title. (You can Google “Succession episode 2.”)
Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is the CEO of the conservative media conglomerate Waystar Royco, who has been rendered catatonic by a stroke. His kids, in their 30s and 40s, pace around New York Presbyterian Hospital while also jockeying for the keys to the castle should their father flatline. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), the second son, is dead set on running the show. He puts it aptly when he snaps at hospital staff, “The socioeconomic health of multiple continents is dependent on his well-being.”
At this, his sister, Siobhan (Sarah Snook), who broke away from the family business for a career in Democratic politics, scoffs. But she side-eyes Ken’s every move, watching him like a hawk as he enters the makeshift “war room” to discuss strategy for managing optics and stabilizing the company’s stock price. Meanwhile, Roman (Kieran Culkin), their flippant baby brother, pokes and prods the tragedy, angling to snag a COO position.
All three have a shot at the gold, and Succession takes us on a joyride of sibling-on-sibling power plays, sabotage, and smear campaigns. You’ll feel uneasy each time a favorite character gains the high ground. That only means someone else is sharpening a dagger. —Jasmine Lu