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Hein’s Picks: Can HBO Catch Lightning in a Bottle Again With The White Lotus Season 2?

PLUS: A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting, Big Mouth Season 5, and more.
  • Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) hits the coast of Italy with Greg (Jon Gries) in an image from The White Lotus Season 2. (HBO/Primetimer graphic)
    Tanya McQuoid (Jennifer Coolidge) hits the coast of Italy with Greg (Jon Gries) in an image from The White Lotus Season 2. (HBO/Primetimer graphic)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    If you didn't catch the first season of The White Lotus, you were probably wondering on Emmy night what this strange show was that was taking home all the hardware.

    The Emmy darling returns for a second season Sunday night at 9:00 PM ET on HBO. Series creator Mike White, affectionately known as Ned Schneebly, penned the script and directs. The only returning cast members are Emmy winner Jennifer Coolidge as the well-to-do Tanya, and her enigmatic beau Greg (Jon Gries). And yes, another exotic resort will be involved.

    The White Lotus vibe remains intact, but there are plenty of changes in Season 2. The action shifts from Hawaii to the shores of Sicily. Aubrey Plaza, F. Murray Abraham and Michael Imperioli headline the mostly-new cast.

    The obvious question is can the magic of the first season return for a second? The White Lotus benefited from being conceived and shot during COVID. All that craziness in our 50th state provided an escape for viewers in more ways than one. The memorable characters and locals in Hawaiian paradise will be missed.

    There were also zero expectations for the first season. At first many wondered what exactly this show was — a comedy? Drama? The gorgeous scenery quickly shifted to the background as its excellent character-driven storylines took hold. And the issues at the resort, although handled in an extreme way, were all too familiar for anyone who’s ever taken a trip to paradise.

    Mike White has long had a knack for writing quirky characters. His School of Rock screenplay featured Jack Black in his finest role as a high-octane wannabe musician who ends up teaching in a private school. Enlightened starred Laura Dern returning to the world after some holistic therapy following a corporate meltdown.

    White's characters have always resonated, and his atypical plot lines make for some truly awkward humor. The first season of The White Lotus took all of us by surprise. Simply changing locations won't be enough to keep viewers happy, but here's betting that White and team are up to the task.

    Here's what else is worth watching on TV this week…

    PREMIERES

    A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (HBO)
    Wednesday, October 26th 9pm

    HBO recounts the deadliest anisemitic attack in American history through the voices of those who survived it and the community that came together in its aftermath. (Watch trailer.)

    Big Mouth Season 6 (Netflix)
    Friday, October 28th

    The funniest animated series on television is back for its sixth season, and it's as raunchy as ever. Nick Kroll returns with his hormone monsters and star voice cast who deal with pregnancy and relatives Jay and Nick never knew they had. (Watch trailer.)

    THIS WEEK'S SPOOKY STIHTGT!
    (Shows That I Hope To Get To!)

    Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix) – A horror anthology from the best in the business. Tuesday. (Watch trailer.)

    The Devil's Hour (Prime Video) – Six-part horror series from across the pond. Friday. (Watch trailer.)

     

    GREATEST HITS
    (Really Good Shows You May Have Missed)

    This Week's Pick: Oz (HBO Max) - This hardcore drama set at Oswald State Penitentiary set the stage for The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood and other smart, violent HBO classics. Tom Fontana's series is gritty, dramatic and did things network television only dreamed about doing on screen. You'll never look at the great J.K. Simmons the same way again.

    Previous Picks:
    Fauda (Netflix)
    Monty Python's Flying Circus (Netflix)
    Taxi (Paramount+)
    It's Garry Shandling's Show (Prime Video)
    The Office (UK) (Hulu)
    The Prisoner (Prime Video)
    The Twilight Zone (Paramount+)
    Black Mirror (Netflix)
    The Leftovers (HBO Max)
    Deadwood (HBO Max)
    Rectify (AMC+)
    House of Cards (Netflix)
    Weeds (Showtime)
    Hannibal (Hulu)
    Mr. Show (HBO Max, Hulu)
    Downton Abbey (Peacock)
    Banshee (HBO Max)
    Police Squad! (Prime Video)
    Party Down (Starz)
    Dexter (Showtime)
    Alias (Hulu/Disney+)
    The Great (Hulu)
    Atypical (Netflix)
    Sherlock (PBS)
    Magic City (Peacock)
    Imposters (Netflix)
    Episodes (Showtime/Hulu)
    For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
    Abbott Elementary (ABC)
    Damages (Hulu)
    Luther (HBO Max)
    Downton Abbey (Netflix)
    Justified (Hulu)
    The Good Wife (Paramount+)
    Freaks & Geeks (Hulu)
    Patriot (Prime Video Prime Video)
    Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)
    The Split (Prime Video)
    Bordertown (Netflix)
    Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)

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    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Get vaccinated and boosted. Stay healthy and safe!

     

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: The White Lotus, HBO, Big Mouth, Jennifer Coolidge, Mike White