It might be pushing things a bit to call Mike White a 21st-century F Scott Fitzgerald but he’s certainly one of the sharpest TV writers out there.
And with The White Lotus he’s proving every bit as acute an observer of the flaws, fallibilities and fickleness of the rich as Fitzgerald himself.
‘The rich are different’ is the Fitzgerald theme White picks up like a gilded baton in The White Lotus, which, for its second run, transports us from Hawaii to Sicily.
There’s a dead body (possibly bodies) floating about, which is more of a nod to the first season’s plot than anything to get too hung up about because the mysterious corpse(s) rapidly play second fiddle to the sex lives of the characters White has assembled in this luxurious locale – sex lives as twisted as the vines smothering the hotel’s walls.
There’s a fine à la carte menu of insecurities and foibles for we voyeurs to feast on.
For an entrée, there’s the return of Jennifer Coolidge as now married heiress Tanya, who appears to be touring the world in a bid to escape herself.
For the the fish course you could get hooked on the power lines between egotistical financier Cameron and his rich geek mate Ethan (Theo James and Will Sharpe, an inspired bit of casting) and respective partners Daphne and Harper (Meghann Fahy and Aubrey Plaza).
But you get the feeling the real meat of the action lies with the three generations of the Di Grasso men who have pitched up in Sicily from the States in search of their heritage. If heritage is Italian for ‘flirt’.
It’s a lavish confection that walks a delicate tightrope between glorying and despising its characters, often at the same time, a tribute to White’s nuanced writing.
There’s one major reservation: this second season lacks the seesaw balance between hotel guests and staff that gave the first season its emotional edge – I kept hoping Murray Bartlett’s show-stealing hotel manager Armond would miraculously come back from the dead.
But as a surgical dissection of the misery of money, it’s a masterclass.