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TV Talk: 'White Lotus' goes to Sicily, new reporters join KDKA-TV

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The Hawaii-set first season of HBO’s “The White Lotus” got off to a slowish start, but became more involving and addictive as it went. Season two, again written/directed entirely by Mike White, relocates to a White Lotus property in Sicily and begins stronger and then becomes more rote through five episodes made available for review.

Premiering at 9 pm Sunday on HBO/HBO Max, the seven-episode second season of “White Lotus” looks gorgeous in its new Italian coast setting. The new cast of swells checking into the resort suggest intrigue to come, particularly after the first scene announces multiple deaths will occur. Then the show flashes back to a week earlier when the guests arrive.

Tanya McQuoid-Hunt (Emmy-winner Jennifer Coolidge) and her husband Greg (Jon Gries), the only holdovers from season one, try for a romantic getaway but Tanya has her assistant, Portia (Haley Lu Richardson), in tow, much to Greg’s dismay.

While many viewers will be tuning in for Coolidge, this season’s early MVP is Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”) who discards her April Ludgate-adjacent persona for a more nuanced, less deadpan performance as Harper, the liberal wife of soft-spoken Ethan (Will Sharpe). They’re vacationing with Ethan’s obnoxious college friend Cameron (Theo James) and Cameron’s wife, Daphne (Meghann Fahy).

A family from Los Angeles rounds out this season’s primary guests. Dominic (Michael Imperiolo, “The Sopranos”) is in the dog house with his wife for cheating, so she’s skipped the trip that includes Dominic’s kind, sensitive son, Albie (Adam DiMarco), and Dominic’s lecherous, elderly father, Bert (F Murray Abraham).

This season’s “White Lotus” offers less of a role for the hotel staff, led by manager Valentina (Sabrina Impacciatore) who’s constantly shooing away two young Italian women (Beatrice Granno, Simona Tabasco) who have sex for money and frequently pop up in the hotel rooms of the American guests.

The politics of sex, transactional sex, lust and infidelity are the major themes White explores this season, alongside father-son relationships. It’s interesting enough and the production design, costumes, music score and setting keep “White Lotus” from tipping into tedium — but this season, so far, is more predictable and less shocking.

A sex scene in episode five that seems intended to have viewers clutching their pearls is both predictable and less salacious than the most taboo sexual moment in season one.

But even if the plotting is less urgent and the comedy, when it flares up (not often enough), is less biting, “White Lotus” remains consistently watchable for White’s finely-drawn characters, whether it’s Daphne’s sunny disposition that masks uncomfortable truths or Dominic’s justification/excuse for his cheating ways.

‘God Forbid’

The primary reason anyone will watch Hulu’s “God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty” is out of prurient interest. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

But the two-hour documentary, streaming Nov. 1, tries to rise above the predictable rubbernecking by surrounding all the dirty details — how Jerry Falwell Jr. enjoyed watching his wife, Becki, have sex with Miami pool boy Giancarlo Granda – with the history of Falwell’s father’s ancestry, the creation of morally and politically conservative Liberty University and the rise of the “moral majority.”

It’s like requesting a big bowl of ice cream and being served a side of veggies you never ordered.

Directed by Billy Corben (“Cocaine Cowboys”),”God Forbid” certainly has a story worth telling given the Falwells’ sex-outside-of-marriage-for-me-but-not-for-thee hypocrisy. To his credit, Granda comes off as believable and mostly guileless; only occasionally does he spout talking points.

But viewers tuning in should prepare themselves: it’s a spoonful of sugar (all the sexy stuff about the seven-year sexual, personal and business relationship between the Falwells and Granda) that makes the medicine (the cultural-historical-political background) go down .

Pittsburgher on ‘Jeopardy!’

As noted Monday on the Pittsburgh Pop podcast, Pittsburgher Margaret Shelton, who won almost $80,000 over four “Jeopardy!” episodes in March, will return to the game show for a tournament of champions that begins Monday at 7:30 pm on WPXI-TV.

Shelton, who lives in Pittsburgh’s East End, will appear in a quarter-finals matchup Nov. 2. “Jeopardy!” producers contacted her earlier this year to check her availability.

“What I said was, whenever you want to do it, I’ve got no plans that cannot be figured out for this,” said Shelton, a self-described “’Jeopardy!’ freak” who returned to the “Jeopardy!” soundstage in Culver City, Calif., the third week of September.

New KDKA-TV reporters

Latrobe native Chris DeRose starts at Channel 2 this week as weekend morning newscast reporter. He’ll report three weekend mornings as well. He previously worked as a feature reporter for TV stations in Chicago, Billings, Mont., and Salt Lake City. Trained in comedy at Second City in Chicago before getting into TV news, he took a break from news from 2016-20 to be a Los Angeles-based actor, writer and producer, including an associate producer on the “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” and as a Universal Studios Hollywood VIP guide.

Erica Mokay, a 2012 West Virginia University grad and former KDKA-TV intern, will show up on air on Channel 2 next week reporting weekend evenings, three weekdays and subbing as a fill-in anchor on occasion. She arrives at KDKA from WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, Mich., where she was an anchor/reporter. She previously worked at WTOV-TV in Steubenville, which offered her a job before she graduated from WVU.


HBO renewed drama “Industry,” starring 2018 Carnegie Mellon University grad Myha’la Herrold, for a third season.

Starz renewed “P-Valley” for a third season.

Nickelodeon ordered a second “Monster High” movie. Western Pennsylvania native Todd Holland returns as director.

Amazon’s Prime Video canceled autism drama “As We See It” after a single season.

Channel surfing

Per Variety, filmed-in-Pittsburgh Apple TV+ movie “Cha Cha Real Smooth” received the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation for its depiction of a character with autism, Lola, played by actress Vaneaa Burghardt, an actor with autism. … The price of Apple TV+ is going up from $5 per month to $7 per month ($50 annually to $70 annually). … In 2023, “Doctor Who” will relocate in the US from linear channel BBC America to streaming service Disney+. … Netflix’s first original series, 2012’s “Lilyhammer,” will exit the service at the end of the month.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.