Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club
A blue dress in the sea… Venus Anadyomene? No: It’s Lindsay Lohan in snake earrings. Parasols… waves… Lindsay walks past some candles. Lindsay reclines. Now a fast sequence of glamorous, wet VIP hosts. Someone shake a cocktail! Beach! Waves! Mykonos! Greece! Voice (Lindsay?) sings “I’m just a little bossy…”: it’s Lindsay’s Lohan’s Beach Club on MTV!
What is Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club on MTV? It is all and it is nothing. It is reality and dreams. Lindsay is its star; Lindsay is hardly ever there. According to Tripadvisor the club does actually exist but has been erased from the face of the earth for the winter season. And are the people who work there staff or contestants? Are they being paid? What is their job? Who is in charge here?
Actually, that’s quite easy: its Panos Spentzos, a terrifying designer whirlwind who seems to resculpt his eyebrows between each shot, presumably to further nuance his expressions of menace. Described by Lindsay as her “creative director”, “partner” and “investor”, and by himself as “owner” of Lohan Beach Club, he also takes on the key televisual role of providing suspense, drama, narrative and bitching. The story goes like this:
Lindsay Lohan has opened a beach club on Mykonos. It’s part of a broader network of Lohan-branded objects, including a club in Athens and an island in Dubai. The club looks exactly like all the other beach clubs everywhere in Greece, so to stand out, she and Panos hire VIP hosts to give their guests the special treatment. They hire them from America. Not Greece. (For the benefit of the Greek economy of course: “It’s actually very emotional for me, the Greek thing, that they need to have more jobs and stuff like this”, Panos says blithely in one employee meeting.) The hosts look after a different rich client each episode, and so it is for some reason – presumably Lohan’s near-total absence – that the lives of the VIP hosts become the focus of this show.
This is instantly confusing. Nobody seems to know what they’re doing here. “It’s like they don’t understand what their job is,” says Lindsay, with her innate and unrecognised ability to hit nails on heads. Set aside the fact that the “VIP host” role is never satisfyingly defined (it appears to involve taking shots but not getting drunk, doing nothing but working 18 hours a day, “selling selling selling”, flyering, dancing on the bar and backrubs) even the people at MTV haven’t decided what sort of show this is. A fly-on-the-wall documentary exploring the life of the 21st-century international cocktail waiter? Glamorous, sun-soaked escapism? An elimination show? The VIP hosts seem to think it’s an elimination show. After all, they all have to live in a villa together. Sometimes they get fired. Panos even talks like the evil judge on the panel: “Nobody is indispensable”, “There’s no second chances”, and (again, confusingly,) “You are the weakest link”.
But if this show is supposed to be a sort of sunny Apprentice, it is frustratingly unclear – to viewers and participants alike – what sort of behaviour triggers a sacking. Kissing clients: good if they buy more drinks! Dancing with clients: “If I want dancing girls I have a whole room of dancing girls upstairs,” says Panos (terrifyingly, the club house is a bungalow). “I’m very confused about what I need to do to get rewarded around here,” says VIP host May in episode 6, shortly before becoming the first person to be let go. Even then she can barely squeeze a tear out, and why should she? There is no prize at the end of all this, except the vague promise of “continuing to work with the Lohan brand”. Lacking the clear-cut structures of an elimination show, all we are left with is a sense of perpetual unease – a very real feeling of insecurity that cuts through the series’ paper-thin gloss finish.
The work of a VIP host – can we call them uncontracted non-union catering staff? – is grim. Not for them the shiny Lohan-life we occasionally glimpse in the corner of a shot, nor even the mild tedium of everybody else’s beach holiday. They have to provide a rent-an-entourage for any lonely rich person who buys a 1000 Euro cabana. They have to line up “like peasants” to be sprayed with champagne. They have to deal with their own incompetence – “Getting to the bakery, and having to pick our macarons and sushi, it’s like, so much” – and the certifiable dickishness of colleague and self-appointed alpha male Brent. After work they are allowed to go out – but only if they promote the club. When giving asides they seem shifty, as if the unseen questions they are being asked are making them uncomfortable. When Alex, who is half Greek, is sent to see his grandmother on another island, he appears visibly hounded as the producers ask him again and again about being accepted as gay in Greece, something he (as a resident of West Hollywood) is clearly unable to talk about. It’s all very ugly and exploitative – and occasionally, completely accidentally, good television.
Don’t get me wrong: if you get into this you have to be ready to put up with acres of boredom. But it turns out that if you watch twelve slightly dull caterers for long enough, then appalling, interesting or strange things are bound to happen with decent regularity. Lohan herself provides much of the strangeness, both in interview – she is a master of weird deflection – and in her appearances at the club, where she is clearly intent on not giving MTV the “messy Lohan” scoop it probably wants. Instead, she behaves with calculated bizarreness. She responds to bullshit with even better bullshit: “Are you a Buddhist? You sound like a Buddhist”. She bandages a DJ’s foot. She dances like Taylor Swift but better. She threatens to call Oprah (has Oprah gone into hiding?). Last week, in her best coup de théâtre so far, she found two Atlantic lobsters on ice in the restaurant and released them into the Mediterranean – presumably to their deaths.
In other words, she manages to look like she is living her best life so far. And that, given the messy spectacle Oprah’s own network made of her the last time she appeared in Reality, can only be a good thing. She may not be hitting the career heights she wants – she missed out on a reprised role in 2018’s Life-Size 2 with Tyra Banks – but she comes off here as a competent businesswoman who is putting her name to good use. And that is, perhaps, the strangest surprise: in a series whose shiny exterior quickly peels, which exploits an already exploited cast for questionable entertainment value, Lindsay Lohan actually manages to come out unscathed.
So far, at any rate.
Our verdict: outstanding mediocrity.