REVIEW: HBO’s ‘The Idol’ is not working for The Weeknd

Lily Rose Depp and The Weeknd star in the new show from Home Box Office (via HBO).

The Guardian called “The Idol” “one of the worst programmes ever made,”  Pitchfork deemed it “fascinatingly bad” and Variety said it is “a sordid male fantasy.” HBO’s newest original series proves a big budget and big names don’t always mean big results. The series, originally one of the most anticipated releases of the summer, now sits with a sad 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

What went so horribly wrong?

“Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson has, in fact, not done it again. His late takeover of “The Idol” might be why it tanked in the first place. Originally directed by Amy Seimetz, Levinson took over when the show was rumored to be about 80% finished. The Weeknd, who plays the seedy club owner Tedros, believed the show was taking on too much of “a female perspective,” and so the show was almost entirely reshot with Levinson behind the camera. 

There was hope that “The Idol” would be a look into the dark underbelly of Hollywood and how the culture takes advantage of and pulls apart young female artists like Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp). There was a huge chance to give us Britney Spears or Taylor Swift-esque experiences with the industry like The Weeknd claimed the series did. Instead, “The Idol” centers on a main character who feels some unavoidable cosmic pull to a rat tail-wearing cult leader. In the first episode, Jocelyn’s friend-turned-assistant tells her that Tedros is ‘rapey.’ but even with obvious danger pointed out to her, Jocelyn said, “I kinda like that about him.” 

Both characters and story fall short in this series. Any big theories viewers have should be abandoned before they get their hopes up. Will Tedros do something unimaginable to our big star? Will Jocelyn’s breakdowns lead her to a psychotic, career-ending move? Will Jocelyn turn the tables on Tedros and go out in a blaze of glory? No. At the end we’re left with almost exactly what we started with, a miserable, tortured pop star. But now, in a major development, she has a boyfriend.

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