love this description of the new genre of tv show.
Caviar Cope by Justin Murphy Or Why I Just Sold My TV
I watched The White Lotus because my wife told me about it, and I saw people talking about it. I didn't really enjoy the first episode, and I didn't learn anything, but I figured it would get better, so I kept watching.
By the third episode, I still wasn't really getting anything from it, but there's something insidious about these New TV shows...
Once you're halfway through, you feel like you have to finish it. It's a combination of Sunk Cost Fallacy and big-budget psychological pwnage: You've given them Write Access to your brain and the first objective of their programming is to revoke your access to the "shutdown" switch. It's no different than TikTok, just a different algorithm and a lot more money spent per production.
So I rode it out. I didn't hate it, but I can't really say I liked it, either. A week later I don't really remember much, good or bad.
A lot of these new, buzzy shows are just comedically stupid/shallow/evil rich people in beautiful scenery accessible only to rich people. Viewers get to enjoy living in the sexy world of the rich, and they get to admire the success and power of the rich, while also feeling like haha rich people are actually stupid and evil.
Succession, The Menu, and The White Lotus are the three paradigmatic examples.
"I would love to own a yacht, but I'm too smart and mentally healthy to be that rich. So I'll just watch these pathetic losers on their yachts, to enjoy the experience, while also basking in my superior intelligence and well-being." I call that Caviar Cope.
Caviar Cope is Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for the déclassé Professional Managerial Class.
A week later, I'm listening to the All-In podcast, a podcast by a few successful VCs. I was surprised to learn that these guys LOVED The White Lotus.
And that's when I decided: I'm done with all of this, I'm getting rid of my TV and I'm done listening to podcasts completely until further notice.
I just sold the TV this past Saturday.
TV, podcasts—it's increasingly one claustrophobic web of all-too-human copypasta, differentially refracted by different players in the name of their own sick fantasies, with very little grounding in reality.
35-year-old PhD dog-moms with sub-zero net worths love The White Lotus because it's like going on a vacation they can't afford, and it rationalizes their immiseration. But 50-year old billionaires also love The White Lotus because, in their mind, the mockery is not directed at them but the vulgar and neurotic upper-bourgeois who can't just relax and be grateful. The dog-mom thinks she is laughing at the economic elites, and the economic elites think they are laughing at preposterous strivers.
So which view is correct?
Both views are wrong because these shows are not trying to say anything pointed. They're trying to arrive at whatever pastiche of scenery and signifiers would be maximally rewarded by the megamachine. And right now, the optimized formula is: Grandiose scenery + absurd wealthy people hilariously affirming and negating everything at once + no clear plot or value system that could offend or stress anyone.