Mike White has been kicking around the entertainment industry for over two decades, and he’s had his share of hits. Maybe you forgot he wrote School of Rock, even Pitch Perfect 3. He’s even a reality TV star. But nothing he’s made has had the obsessive impact of The White Lotus, his bad vacation anthology show, which has ensnared viewers with its twisty, increasingly horny claws. What’s the show’s secret? Well, it has many, but one of them is that it knows how to hook viewers from the get-go: Each of its two seasons has kicked off with a dead body before flashing back. It’s a good gimmick, and White is joking that he wished he’d thought of it for previous shows.
“I’ve been making stuff for a long time and when that first season became such a water cooler show [that] people were talking about, I was like, had I only known if I’d put a dead body at the beginning of Enlightened, maybe people would’ve watched Enlightened,” he told Terry Gross during a recent episode of Fresh Air, referring to his acclaimed HBO show with Laura Linney, which only lasted two seasons. “You realize these kinds of hooks do actually get viewers.”
White said he noticed, from online chatter and friends, that wondering which character (or, this season, maybe characters) will eat it is part of the show’s pull. “It clearly is something that drives interest in the show. People will decide at the conclusion whether it’s satisfying or it feels just device-y, but at this point, I’m excited about the finale,” White explained. “It’s not really my wheelhouse, but as somebody who’s been working in the margins, it is kind of nice to have viewers,” he added with a laugh.
As of this writing, only one episode remains in the Sicily-set second season. As obsessed as people are with the show and that “ginormous” dildo Theo James had to brandish, they’re also already speculating about who should get a crap vacay for round three.
You can listen to Mike White’s full Fresh Air interview over at NPR.