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HBO’s The Idol is finally here, and most viewers are saying the same thing about this sleazy drama

Published Jun 5th, 2023 8:47PM EDT
The Idol on HBO
Image: Eddy Chen/HBO

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On paper, HBO’s The Idol must have looked like a guaranteed home run. The cast includes bonafide pop stars like Blackpink’s Jennie Kim and Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd). The controversy-laden new show from co-creator Sam Levinson, who’s also behind the hit HBO series Euphoria, was supposed to continue the network’s epic run on Sunday nights — following back-to-back home runs in the form of shows like House of the Dragon, season two of The White Lotus, and the series finales of Succession and Barry.

Viewers and critics alike, however, are now in agreement that The Idol has proven to be quite a chaotic and sleaze-filled miss for HBO following the release of the series’ debut episode on Sunday. In fact, the consensus among some viewers is that the transition from the critically acclaimed shows mentioned above to, now, The Idol represents “one of the biggest downgrades in history.”

The Idol on HBO
Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp in “The Idol” on HBO. Image source: Eddy Chen/HBO

Via Twitter, among the harshest burns for the show from viewers who checked it out over the weekend: One user lamented that “hbo’s run from the white lotus to the last of us to final seasons for both barry/succession and going to ‘the idol’ right afterwards is possibly the worst downgrade i’ve ever seen.” That’s actually the common thread linking so many viewer comments, like another from Twitter: “from succession on sundays to the idol is so foul.”

Viewers like those have also helped give The Idol a “rotten” 56% score so far on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics and viewers are more or less in alignment in their response to the show (which has an even worse 25% critics’ score so far). As far as what the show is about, Depp plays Jocelyn, a pop star who suffers a nervous breakdown and whose passions are reignited by Tedros (The Weeknd), a nightclub impresario with a sordid past.

The sex and nudity, among other things, are explicit throughout The Idol, to the point of the whole thing devolving into, in the words of one critic, “a Pornhub-homepage odyssey starring Lily Rose Depp’s areolas.”

Maybe it’s still too early to write the show off entirely, but I tend to agree with many of the viewers who’ve laid the problems at the feet largely of Levinson — a creator who seems to enjoy presenting young women in all manner of undress in a way that feels like explicitness pretending to be deep, meaningful art.

I may be in the minority, because there are tons of people who obviously love what Levinson did with Euphoria, but I agree 110% with the Globe and Mail critic who opined that: “It’s downright queasy how Levinson continues to make content, which purports to be about how women are preyed upon, about himself, where his cast become props who either defend his voyeurism or are subjected to it.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.