It’s last call for Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club: The MTV reality show will not be coming back for a second season, Page Six reported this week. Dismal reviews and declining ratings rendered this fate all but inevitable early on in the show’s run, but to twist the knife, it seems that Lohan’s Mykonos nightclub, where the show was set, is closing as well. The show’s cancellation may strike most people, if it strikes them at all, as meaningless, a blip, a drop of water in the Aegean Sea, but I for one am sad about it—OK, not sad exactly, but wistful. I thought this was going to be a thing! A chance to reckon (again) with the national (international, even!) problem that is Lindsay Lohan, A-list up-and-coming star turned tabloid fixture turned mess even Oprah couldn’t fix. Instead, I’m just left feeling bad for Lindsay—and myself.
In an act of what must have been profound optimism, I watched the whole first (and now last and only) season of the show. I felt drawn to it the way Lohan’s character in Mean Girls was drawn into the Plastics: At first, my interest was mostly curiosity; I wanted to see what Lohan would be like on reality TV. But it evolved into something more than that: I found it really compelling. I basically … liked it. The setup was familiar and therefore highly watchable: 10 or so random Americans were picked to be “VIP hosts” at Lohan’s club, and they were theoretically competing for a spot to work with her brand permanently. They weren’t waitstaff or servers; they didn’t seem to have any specific function actually, and yet they were all terrible at this nonjob and slacked off constantly. The cast members also, of course, got drunk and had a lot of interpersonal drama: the standard reality stuff. But better, because Lindsay Lohan was weirdly there looming over it all. (It was particularly rich when she barked at the drunken cast to be “professional.”) And some interesting things did happen along the way: A conflict between two characters over bi erasure reminded me of the discussions they used to have on The Real Word back when it was good. Also, Nico Tortorella from Younger showed up at the club, for some reason.
Lohan’s participation in the show was minimal by design: Part of the conceit was that she’s the mostly off-camera boss, above the petty fights and grunt work that her staff has to deal with. Beach Club’s intermittent insistence, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it was actually Lohan running the show made for some bizarre, fascinating, and perhaps unintentionally revealing moments. She was always nodding intently at her memorably coifed deputy, Panos, trying to seem deeply interested in the drudgery of these people whose names I’m not sure she ever learned. Let’s just say that managerially she has room for growth! In truth, she seemed deluded about the level of prestige of the “Lohan brand” and how to listen when other people spoke. She made snap judgments, and she seemed obsessed with propriety, but her own mysterious version of it: When Lohan met all the hosts by dropping by their house without warning, she got really worked up about how one of them was wearing a bra instead of a shirt (they were drinking by the pool, it was fine!) and seemed to hold it against that woman for the rest of the show. She accused people of only being there to get famous even though she ostensibly only agreed to do the show to stay famous. She fired and punished all the wrong people (mostly women, actually).
For a millennial audience that grew up with Lohan and then spent much of adulthood following her demise, gawking at Lohan up close proved irresistible. Or so I thought, anyway—I guess everyone else has moved on. But all these years into her downward spiral, I have never quite stopped rooting for Lohan to get it together and stage her comeback for real this time. Up till now, I thought of her like (and I understand this is a bad sign) Lord Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book, when he’s hiding inside Professor Quirrell’s turban—a shell of her former self, sure, but bound to rise again. With this show’s cancellation, maybe I have to admit that I’ve been deluded, too—about Lohan’s relative importance in the world order. The sands of time may not remember Beach Club, but I will.