The Idol Review: The Worst Show Of The Summer

The Idol received excessive promotion for the better part of a year. The series, which was created by Sam Levinson, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and Reza Fahim, went largely under the radar despite periodic rumors that it was pushing the boundaries in terms of, well, everything. This The Idol review questions this premise. With every passing development, it became more and more obvious that this was a series that was about to significantly shake things up, from the overall raciness to the subject matter itself, the program was discussed as though it were the word in a game of telephone.

Sam Levinson’s The Idol, a new HBO drama from the Euphoria creator, aims to shock, titillate, and disturb you. In its barefaced attempt to appear cool and rebellious, it makes use of nudity, profanity, narcotics, semen, sadism, masochism, psychosis, and profuse cigarette smoking. This The Idol review will delve into the show’s themes, lackluster hits, and copious misses.

First Impressions

The Idol Review

It is very evident from Sunday’s premiere that The Idol is neither hip nor rebellious. It is a futile attempt, and to make matters worse, it is extremely dull. With Lily-Rose Depp and pop singer The Weeknd (credited under his birth name, Abel Tesfaye), The Idol fails on every level.

Furthermore, questions regarding the specific plot of The Idol were raised in the wake of a Rolling Stone exposé that claimed the makers of the program had cranked up the sex and nudity to dangerous levels, turning it into a poisonous, male-oriented fantasy.

Sincerely, there are a few instances in Sunday’s program that resemble that in this The Idol review. In one scene, Jocelyn, played by Depp, chokes herself for pleasure; in another, a companion comments that Tedros, played by Tesfaye, has a “rapey” vibe, and the pop star responds, “I kinda like that about him.”

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What Actually Happens?

The Idol Review

The Idol begins with Jocelyn mid-photo session, seeking to get out of the nudity rider in her contract, embracing scandal from the get-go. She is certain that she should display more than just her “side boob” on the cover of her upcoming album since “it’s my body!” (Clearly, Depp is not covered by such safeguards; her costumes are largely made of straps and strings.)

An entourage of yes-people surrounds Jocelyn, a modern-day princess, from her co-managers Chaim (Hank Azaria) and Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to her spin-doctor/publicist (Dan Levy) and lifelong best friend Xander (Troye Sivan), all of whom are more interested in giving her what she wants to hear than the truth.

The Idol‘s premiere may have surprised viewers the most with how little really occurs in the first episode in this The Idol review. The action’s limited breadth reveals a plot trapped in a cramped bubble, delivering brief spurts of sensuality and nudity to detract from how little is actually occurring on screen.

At least in the first episode, this is a show that ignores nuance. Hank Azaria and Dan Levy, two of Jocelyn’s managers, are as vulgar, commercially-minded, and insensitive to their client’s suffering as you might imagine. This is true even as they try to predict how she will respond to the news that an obviously sexual image of her is trending on Twitter.

The Idol feels like it might be giving true insights into how the music business handles crisis management throughout all of its first 23 minutes, much as how In the Loop and Veep depicted their characters continually putting out PR fires. Then the outrage surrounding the photos fades away almost as fast as it appeared in this The Idol review. Jocelyn enters a club on the Sunset Strip wearing an ultra-short, ultra-sheer party dress, which attracts Tedros (The Weeknd), a mysterious music industry fringe player who has been waiting for her to enter his web. Tedros is depicted as a manager who crosses the line with his clients, treating them like a pimp treats his stable.

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Character Qualms

The Idol Review

Jocelyn’s status as an “idol”—one of those overused buzzwords that has all but lost its meaning—and the kind of role model she serves for her followers are never satisfactorily explained by Levinson in this The Idol review. She reportedly needs to heal from a psychotic break that caused her to postpone a previous tour. Midway through a major makeover, the show catches up with her, and Jocelyn thinks it’s not nearly as intense as she feels on the inside. She remixes her “World Class Sinner” record with Tedros’ assistance to include heated and heavy panting, which the label swiftly rejects.

Along with Tesfaye and Reza Fahim, Sam Levinson, the creator of Euphoria, is a co-creator and executive producer of The Idol. He also directs and writes the episodes. It’s therefore not surprising that some scenes in The Idol bring to mind the sultry, fetid atmosphere that Euphoria’s party scenes so effectively conjured in this The Idol review. One such scene involves Tedros luring Jocelyn into his club while the song “Like a Virgin” pulses in the background (the pop star’s handlers also compare her to Britney Spears, in case viewers didn’t catch the glaring comparisons to real-life, unpredictable blonde divas).

Jocelyn hasn’t actually received any psychology at all; instead, she has been loaded up with perverted urges that have no more significance than a few bags of groceries stuffed into a sedan’s trunk. In the most horrifying scene of the first episode, she allows a stranger named Tedros to come dangerously close to suffocating her. She bares her breasts during a photo shoot, stimulates herself through asphyxiation, and more in this The Idol review.

The issue is that we don’t exactly know how brilliant a vocalist Jocelyn is because we are just given a brief glimpse into her life prior to the death of her mother. She claims that she desires to be a once-in-a-generation artist and is unable to commit to anything else, but her new song intentionally sounds like catchy disposable fodder. Instead, it sounds like the ramblings of another starlet who has been told “yes” too many times and whose complicated state of mind makes her a candidate for a cult leader in this The Idol review. Again, it’s difficult to judge with such a scant understanding of the plot whether or not this is deliberate.

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Controversial Moments

The Idol Review

Some people might concentrate on the oddly erotic moment that ends the opening episode, in which Tedros conceals Jocelyn’s head with her robe, pulls out a knife, and slashes a hole in it where her lips should be (this show is not subtle, as I stated). But because that scene seems so cartoonishly obscene, criticizing it feels like helping the show’s creators by drawing attention to a scene that’s largely undermined by bad storytelling.

It’s incredibly difficult to watch The Idol. Is it meant to be satire or soft porn, a comedy or a drama? I was unable to decide. I Hate Suzie did a much better job of critiquing the wasteful and perilous world of the fame business in this The Idol review.

Above all else, however, The Idol is striving to be seen as “high art,” yet in doing so, it has essentially transformed into the reverse; for something that boasted its shock value before to release, the first episode couldn’t be more at odds with that claim. Movies and television shows that are truly significant and adhere to whatever this idea of “high art” is don’t need to actively strive to be that; they just are. Because the show had been heavily marketed as being extremely edgy and racy, audiences were not overly impressed when the first episode eventually aired, as evidenced by the premiere’s paltry 913,000 viewers in this The Idol review. 

The Idol appears to be making a statement about what it means to be a celebrity, the dangers of falling victim to the fame industry, and the difficulties of trying to exercise any agency or retain a sense of self in the face of all of that. I’m sorry, but I’m unable to tell you what that something is. Vaguely mentioning some subjects does not constitute a show in this The Idol review. The show claims more credibility than it already has by attempting to answer the problems it poses, some of which would otherwise be significant, such as whether the series supports the misogyny and exploitation it is purportedly criticizing.

Final Thoughts

The Idol Review

The Idol is a huge negative for HBO overall. The Idol has received so much negative attention while being the owner of some of the most well-known and adored media assets ever, HBO’s illustrious reputation may suffer as a result. In fact, there was a lot of criticism of the series even before it began. For instance, a March 2023 story from Rolling Stone claimed that the production of The Idol had been a failure and that the program itself was “torture porn.” All of this, along with the show’s weekly ratings declines, reflect poorly on HBO.

The show was also the target of numerous accusations of onset toxicity due to big egos, last-minute changes, and the decision to center an ugly, more macho story. This made sense to people who were familiar with Levinson’s brand of auteurism, which has allegedly led to verbal fights, treating the crew badly, and safety violations. Therefore, it looks like the call is coming from inside the house when it comes to The Idol attacking the parasitic, deadly male ego and the ways the industry will overlook and celebrate it in this The Idol review.

With only three episodes currently available, the concerns about The Idol seem to never end. The series has attracted more haters than admirers, whether it be due to the excessive amount of sexual content or the Weeknd’s subpar performance. The potential of the series preserving its own reputation still exists because a few voices still support it. However, as The Idol seems to get worse and worse at this point, HBO has unquestionably invested its money in the wrong spot in this The Idol review.

In response to recent complaints about the hostile environment on the set, Levinson said that magazines are free to “write whatever it wants” and that when his wife read him the article, “I said, ‘I think we’re about to have the biggest show of the summer.'” While Levinson may be right, The Idol is also shaping up to be the worst show of the summer. 

Tesfaye, though, provided the day’s most frank and illuminating response. When asked right away about his motivations for doing this, he spoke about the films he and Sam enjoyed as well as his ambition to create “a dark twisted fairy tale on the music industry” that takes a serious look at the suffering and absurdity of the show business. He mostly intended to put up a show, though, to, among other things, “piss people off.” The Idol at least managed to get one thing right, and you don’t have to be a college-educated internet type to see it.