The three-generational Sicilian-American family, the Di Grassos, provides the most comedy. F Murray Abraham is the patriarch, Bert, a relentless flirt at 80. His son, Dom, is a Hollywood player whose affairs have earned his absent wife’s fury. Michael Imperioli plays this remorseful, weak-willed clod with down-to-earth naturalism in what may be his best work since Christopher on The Sopranos. Dom’s son, Albie (Adam DiMarco) is an earnest Stanford University grad. The series’ hilarious moments come when the three fumble through a discussion of sex, and when they visit the tourist-trap location where the Sicilian segments of The Godfather were shot. To his father’s and grandfather’s horror, Albie goes off on an explanation of why the overrated film plays into men’s nostalgia for “the salad days of the patriarchy”. The actors’ impeccable comic timing makes you believe they are a family.
Coolidge and White once more brilliantly define Tanya, who is sad, lonely (despite being married) and pitiable, but thoughtlessly callous toward people she considers the help. Haley Lu Richardson makes Tanya’s assistant, Portia, the most realistic character, a young woman with an edge of desperation about her future. In tears, she tells a friend on the phone, “I feel like I’ve just been stuck at home, just doom-scrolling on my phone the last three years”. White includes another nod at a world shaped by Covid and other blights when Harper says she has trouble sleeping because of “everything that’s going on in the world”. Daphne blankly asks what she means, and the appalled Harper explains, “I don’t know, just, like the end of the world”. Well put, but White leaves it at that. Real-life disasters never intrude on this engaging show.
While the guests seemed hermetically sealed inside the Hawaiian resort in season one, here they roam around (partly due to fewer Covid restrictions during shooting.) There are trips to an extravagant villa in Noto, another extravagant villa in Palermo, and the grand opera house, where we get a snippet of Madame Butterfly, until the series begins to feel like a tourist video. It’s just a matter of time before someone sings That’s Amore, but White savvily uses the song with a sad irony, a hint of the darker underside of The White Lotus that has yet to emerge.
The White Lotus season 2 premieres on HBO on 30 October.
Love film and TV? Join BBC Culture Film and TV Club on Facebook, a community for cinephiles all over the world.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday