Let me introduce you to the insanity that is The White Lotus. First season set in a luxury resort in Hawaii. Second season set in a luxury resort in Sicily. Swear to god, if you've ever been tempted by luxury resorts, the threat of imminent death, marital destruction, dangerous sexual contact and gross exploitation of resort staff should put you off entirely. It won't though. It's the most compelling, nutty and scary thing you've ever seen, even wilder than Sky After Dark. Everybody is awful all the time, even the people you think might be the good guys. No wonder the young people are utterly obsessed on TikTok (hot tip: too many spoilers, too many hours scrolling). Plus the music is so earwormy!
So here's the thing. I reckon to save Australia's economy, we should all campaign to have future seasons of The White Lotus set in Australia. Honestly, Hawaii and Sicily did not need the help of the bingiest show since Game of Thrones. What Jon Snow did for Scottish castles, a reincarnation of Jennifer Coolidge (Tanya in TWL) could do for our boundless plains and seas. Maybe not our seas.
I never thought I'd be a binger. I rolled my eyes at those addicted to Succession. Could not get through Breaking Bad (that scene where she chokes on vomit did it for me). I have the box set of The Wire and that took over a year to get through (of course, it's brilliant but that's not the point). Love Only Murders in the Building but no desire to rush through it (season three coming up soon with added Meryl Streep. I am agog).
My idea of a fun night of television is Monday night - the ABC news followed by 730 and whatever happens next. I pretty much became addicted to Media Watch as soon as it began and it is just possible I will return to loving Q&A when it returns on Mondays from January 30, after the wacky experiment of moving the panel show to Thursday failed dismally.
Bingeing is a mindset and I was not a binger. Until now.
For those of you who do not watch television, read news or have any social media accounts, a brief recap of The White Lotus. There have been two seasons so far, written and directed by Mike White. Each season covers a week at a specific resort focusing on a handful of guests. These are people who are loaded but mostly, their lives are miserable for good reason. In season one, Shane is delighted his mum arrives during his honeymoon with Rachel. The Mossbachers make it clear money can't buy happiness or real friendships. The hotel manager Armond is the most fabulous character and his former addictions really test him. You meet a dead body at the beginning and then discover who it is at the end and it's way too sad. In season two, you also get a dead body at the beginnng and the end, a terrible portrayal of married life, and what looks like spectacular gay sex (turns out that Mike White's dad, Mel, was a Christian evangelist who then realised he was gay and remarried, so all that might be a lovely homage to his dad). So many drugs of so many kinds. Lots of drinking. Two captivating and adorable sex workers. Three generations of men looking for their roots. What could be incest, or not. What could be infidelity, or not.
There is no way The White Lotus franchise is in trouble but I do think Australia could contribute in a big way to its continued success. In the same way, TWL has been good for tourism in Hawaii and in Sicily, think what it could do for us.
We should volunteer a venue for season four (I have a feeling season three is set in the Maldives after a mid-series hint). My darling friend Lesley suggests various places could bid for it, just like the Olympics.
I thought of Lizard Island, now owned by Andrew and Nicola Forrest of Fortescue fame. I did write to them and ask if they were up for hosting TWL but I never heard back. They probably thought I was kidding.
Tourism researcher at the University of South Australia Freya Higgins-Desbiolles says Byron Bay would be an obvious site.
"But the locals are somewhat fed up with the wrong kinds of visitors and the youth have created the Byron Way Pledge," she says. Trust me, The White Lotus guests are definitely the wrong kinds of visitors.
Or what about any of those Baillie Lodges, absolutely dripping in luxury resort vibe. Hayley Baillie says TWL does a brilliant job of promoting destinations so here's what her team wants to offer: Longitude 131, the luxury base camp set among the red sand dunes at Uluru Kata-Tjuta.
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As she points out, It's the very opposite of an island. That is great. A strong contrast to all that rushing water.
"It would work well for along the outback noir theme; thinking some seriously stylish cocktails, drinks and drama served in the plunge pool looking out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the occasional steamy desert romance scene and all the glamour and thrills (spills?) of helicopter rides high over the Red Centre or of camel safaris at sunset," she says.
Does TWL do justice to luxury resorts?
"It's a pretty cynical view of the luxury hotels business, and our guests are nothing like the White Lotus guests! (Or so she claims!)
"That said, we all loved Murray Bartlett's character [Armond] as the hotel manager in the first season with shades of John Cleese in Fawlty Towers.
"Possibly there's a little bit of Murray in some of us behind the scenes."
Oh my god, Hayley! That is a TERRIFYING REVELATION but also true. We all loved Armond and his devil-will-definitely-care attitude.
Or what about Tamworth during the country music festival - or the island formerly known as Aspen, right in the middle of Lake Burley Griffin! A terrific idea although we would have to commandeer the Carillon, install beds and spas, and train up youngsters from the colleges of ANU and the University of Canberra. I am not entirely sure that any of them would smile enough but perhaps with attitude training from Duntroon that could be achieved. Relax folks. That's a joke.
They don't smile at Duntroon either. No White Lotus for them either.
- Jenna Price is a regular columnist and a visiting fellow at the Australian National University.