“Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” is Lindsay Lohan’s second reality series. The first, simply titled “Lindsay,” had Oprah Winfrey on hand to castigate Lohan as the tabloid mainstay attempted to refurbish her brand post-rehab.
Winfrey isn’t part of “Beach Club,” which premiered Tuesday on MTV, but Lohan won’t let us forget how much Earth’s guardian angel changed her life. During the after-show for “Beach Club,” hosted by “Mean Girls” co-star Jonathan “Your Hair Looks Sexy Pushed Back” Bennett ― yes, there’s an after-show hosted by “Mean Girls” co-star Jonathan “Your Hair Looks Sexy Pushed Back” Bennett ― Lohan dropped the O-word more than once, crediting Oprah for tidying up her chaotic life and building a path toward entrepreneurship. (Your move, Marie Kondo.)
Lohan has clearly taken Winfrey’s advice to “cut the bullshit,” or so “Beach House” would have us believe. She now owns a nightclub and two resorts in Greece, including the one in party-happy Mykonos that provides grist for the new series. Not only is she managing her own life after years of feeling owned by paparazzi and a prying public; she is also managing a tribe of young, sexy “ambassadors” from America who serve the resort’s clientele and, as she repeatedly informs them, personify the all-important Lohan empire.
The program’s aim is evident from the first 15 seconds. “I’ve been working for 28 years in Hollywood, and I’ve come so far in my life,” the 32-year-old Lohan announces via voice-over. “I know the ups and downs of being in the spotlight.” Following a flashbulb-heavy montage of arrests, outbursts and professional mishaps, Lohan stands under the glistening European sun to declare, “Now, I want to do things differently. I want to be my own boss.”
It’s a redemption story that trades the theatrics of Lohan’s past for packaged workplace melodrama.
It’s also crawling with familiar rhetoric. Reality television, after all, is awash with comeback sagas and celebrities capitalizing on onetime notoriety: Bret Michaels’ and Flavor Flav’s VH1 dating contests, Anna Nicole Smith’s bawdy second act, look-at-them-now profiles of Paula Abdul, Ashlee Simpson, the Osbourne clan, Denise Richards, Snoop Dogg, Michelle Williams, Mariah Carey and countless B-listers I’m probably forgetting,
But Lohan’s endeavor diverges from the genre’s forebears in terms of her sheer screen time: She’s more like an avatar for the show than its star. “Beach House” isn’t fixated on the ins and outs of Lohan’s present-day existence. Nor does it show her actually developing the Mykonos resort, which was already open to the public by the time a filming crew showed up. “Beach House” instead chronicles the feisty dynamics among the bottle-service gofers she and “business partner” Dennis Papageorgiou plucked from Vegas nightclubs and Los Angeles fitness studios, where the word “Kardashian” is holy.
“Beach House” shares some DNA with Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules,” except actress-turned-restaurateur Lisa Vanderpump was never as famous as Lohan was in her “Parent Trap”-induced heyday. If anything, “Beach House” is a New Age version of “The Apprentice”; rather than invite the cast to board rooms, she suggests they meditate. Lohan’s opening spiel mirrors that of Donald Trump, who in the “Apprentice” pilot said, “About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt, but I fought back and won, bigly.” I say this not to liken Lohan to Trump himself, but to point out just how common calculated redemption narratives and their unifying bombast have become among wealthy also-rans with network-television connections.
Lohan’s first order of business once her staff arrives in the Greek Isles? Breaking up their boozy get-to-know-you bacchanalia, during which they strip and dive into a nearby pool. Lohan is disappointed because of course they can’t do their jobs if they’re tired from partying all night, and now they’re meeting their boss in soggy clothes. Her second order of business? Asking everyone to introduce themselves, then proceeding to tell Gabi, a “VIP waitress” in a bra who touts her pre-med college résumé, “You’re very good at making things about you, and I’m not gonna have that.” Gabi confesses she’s using “Beach Club” as a launch pad for her own endeavors, prompting Lohan to wonder whether Gabi is cut out for the gig. The only thing that matters in Lohan’s employ is one’s ability to help form the “backbone” of ― you guessed it ― her brand.
“I think you want your own show, so you should focus on that,” Lohan scolds.
“Beach House” isn’t a competition, but Lohan is anxious to turn it into one. She constantly implies, and sometimes states outright, that she is prepared to nix anyone who doesn’t have what it takes to top off vacationers’ piña coladas. “Being in the public eye, people all the time take from me,” Lohan says in her shape-shifting gravelly cadence. It’s a fair statement that has years of supporting evidence, but Lohan muddies the sentiment with a hyperbolic comparison to her own employment experiences.
“It’s like me going to meet Steven Spielberg in a bra with wet hair and wet bikini shorts ― it’s impossible,” she said.
The rub: Lindsay Lohan has never worked for Steven Spielberg. Implying she has comes with an air of secondhand sadness for what her career could have been.
Lohan spends her minimal “Beach Club” screen time convincing us that she is qualified to run a business because she has overcome obstacles and found self-sustainability. But she seems to be convincing herself as well, using the same canned verbiage that undergirded Trump’s and Vanderpump’s illustrious prime-time vehicles. Lohan is careful not to let her own life provide the series’ substance, the way it did on “Lindsay,” so she raises the stakes by turning her HR practices into a survival of the fittest.
At the episode’s end, Lohan declares, “This is not a summer vacation. To make it, you have to be the best of the best. But after yesterday, I’m not sure that these VIP hosts have what it takes. If their intention is not to do a good job and work hard, it’s not going to fly with me. They’re representing the Lohan Beach House, and they can’t forget that. So get ready. Boss bitch.”
Lohan can call herself a “boss bitch” all she wants, but “Beach Club” just isn’t that much fun, no matter the sunny atmosphere. There’s nothing wrong with Lohan using her name to launch entertainment venues, especially if she can’t get many acting roles anymore (or simply chooses not to try, aside from a recent Twitter bid to play Batgirl). But turning her minions into a spectacle that adheres to reality-programming tropes ― they fight! they hook up! ― while threatening to terminate them if they don’t behave won’t provide the reinvention she clearly wants. None of them have half her magnetism, yet they’re left to steer the plot.
The “Beach House” pilot is as removed from reality as her rocky adolescence was, letting Lohan masquerade as a deacon of enlightenment without much proof. After all, it was mere months ago that Lohan was defending Harvey Weinstein and livestreaming her alarming brawl with a family she identified as Syrian refugees. Corralling celebrity-chasing hotties who know how to cater to “millionaires and billionaires” won’t do for her persona what Lohan hopes it might.
We can (and should) root for Lohan as the years go on. She is a prime example of talent squandered to Hollywood tumult, and her refusal to fade away quietly is as inspiring as it is pathological. But she’ll need more than a diminutive version of “The Apprentice” to graduate to a new chapter that promises any longevity. If “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” is an exercise in image-building, it’s lacking a hammer and nails. Maybe she can ask Oprah what to do.