"Nine Perfect Strangers" checks in, while "The White Lotus" checks out

With a mini-reunion of key players from “Big Little Lies” at its core, “Nine Perfect Strangers” combines a book by Liane Moriarty with Nicole Kidman and writer-producer David E. Kelley, then surrounds them with an equally impressive cast. Another mystery series, “Nine Perfect Strangers” manages to grab attention while still revealing big truths and a few lies.

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In a way, the show has the misfortune of premiering so close to “The White Lotus,” another limited series built around the dynamic between vacationers and staff at a high-end resort. Even though the listings are one reminder that peak TV really original concepts are rare, there are enough differences to accommodate both.
Perhaps the biggest problem the show faces is expectations. It doesn’t live up to the previous series. It all boils down to a simple concept: a group (nine) of people arrive at a health-and-wellness retreat promising a transformative experience. Masha (Kidman), who’s motives and tactics can be as confusing as her accent. Although the strangers appear to be quite different, Masha casts each group in whispered whispers. This suggests that there is higher logic or a strange rats-in-amaze experiment.
Each guest has a secret. This includes Melissa McCarthy, the journalist (Luke Evans), Regina Hall (a divorcee with anger issues) and Bobby Cannavale (an ex-athlete). Add Grace Van Patten, Michael Shannon, Asher Keddie and Grace Van Patten, all mourning the loss of their son/brother. A couple (Samara Gregg, Melvin Gregg), whose exterior beauty hides deep insecurity.
Masha’s plan for guests is met with varying levels of resistance from their guests. It involves a mixture of deprivation and new-age counseling, which Masha claims is intended to cleanse them spiritually, psychically, and physically. The staff has begun to suspect that Masha’s latest guests might be particularly volatile, prompting questions about whether they can manage the wheels they have set in motion.
This show and “White Lotus” share a common thread: rich-people problems. The subtle message that having everything is not the same thing as having it all when you think about happiness is also evident.
The plot moves slowly but the writing compensates by providing meaty material for the actors at this adult summer camp. This is no small feat for this type of exercise.
While “Nine Perfect Strangers,” on balance, isn’t perfect, it is still quite strange and compelling. It doesn’t quite match the compulsive binge of “Big Little Lies”, but it is a good trip as TV’s summer escapes.