Sunday, May 26, 2024

HBO’s “White Lotus” Series Finally Rises to 500,000 Viewers Thanks To Surprise Taboo Sex Act


Until this past Sunday, HBO’s “White Lotus” was not really what you could call a hit. It was no “Mare of Easttown” or “The Undoing,” limited run mini series that became water cooler hits.

The ratings for “White Lotus,” created by Mike White, were steadily under half a million viewers a week on HBO proper. The cable network claimed double that adding in HBO Max, which is unmonitored.

But this past Sunday, “White Lotus” finally jumped to 515,000 viewers, up 7.74% from the week before in total viewers, and 27.27% in the key age demo.

What changed? The 4th episode ended with a cliffhanger, as two naked men performed a sex act that would be considered a taboo on anything except pay per view sex stations. Even HBO, with its history of risque sex in documentaries and shows like “Sex and the City,” had not ventured into this space.

The news of the “White Lotus” scene spread quickly, obviously, to other time zones and to later showings of the episode on Sunday night. The men were walked in on by two other characters, and there will be ripple effects in the next episode, to be certain.

“White Lotus” was filmed at Hawaii’s Four Seasons on the island of Maui. It revolves around a resort where a group of eclectic tourists have arrived for a vacation stay. Connie Britton and Steve Zahn are a wealthy couple who’ve brought their teen son and daughter, and the girl’s school friend. Jake Lacey and Alexandria Daddario are mismatched honeymooners; Jennifer Coolidge brings her mother’s ashes for burial at sea; and then there is the staff headed by Murray Bartlett, who plays the pill popping, drug addicted gay general manager. What could go wrong?

The series is notable for its almost all-white, wealthy collection of characters, the notable exception being Natasha Rothwell as Belinda, second in command, who gets caught up in a class power struggle of a friendship with Coolidge’s character. Belinda is the only character we can root for. Everyone else is just awful, seemingly with no redeeming features.

On top of all this, the series began with a flash forward showing that someone has died during the vacation. A coffin is being loaded onto a plane. It’s anyone’s guess which of these dreadful people has come to an end– and how or why.

How will this week’s ratings be? Can “White Lotus” top itself? It will be pretty hard to to do that without going way over the top.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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