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  • Writer's picture The Vindicator

“The Idol”: Six Months Later

A retrospective look at the worst show on television.

Written by Athan Marshall and Jake Ryan

What’s the worst show you’ve ever seen?  If you didn’t say “The Idol,” then you haven’t seen it. “What is ‘The Idol’?” you may be asking. It’s a show created by international pop star The Weeknd and “auteur” filmmaker Sam Levinson. You may know Levinson from his other, much more popular creation, “Euphoria.” “The Idol” follows international pop star Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp, as she falls in love with local nightclub owner, cult leader and resident scumbag, Tedros Tedros (yes, that is actually his name), played by The Weeknd himself. “The Idol” was a premise with potential that completely crashed and burned before it even premiered. So, what happened? In order to fully understand, we have to go back to the beginning. 

"It feels like you’re watching the money it took to make the show burn up right before your eyes."

In March 2023, before the show’s release, Rolling Stone reported that “The Idol” had been plagued with issues before production even began. Constant rewrites and a change in the director led to the show being reshot with a different storyline and characters than originally pitched. The original series director, Amy Seimetz, left the project after The Weeknd sought to change the show's point of view. He felt it leaned too much into the “female perspective.”  Levinson was brought in to replace her. The result of this creative shift is now the show that you can view on Max (formally HBO Max). The show premiered its first two episodes at the Cannes Film Festival to a mixed reception of boos, walkouts and a standing ovation. 

Once the show was released to the general public, it was lambasted by both critics and audiences. The main points of criticism were its seemingly nonexistent structure and overabundance of graphic sexual content: essentially, the complete opposite of what the show was originally supposed to be. The initial plot of the series was a satire of the inner workings and politics of the music industry. Other than that premise, very little is actually known about the original version of the series. However, several production photos floating around the internet show a radically different version than what we got. 

Jocelyn’s character was originally a stand-in for Britney Spears: a commercialized superstar, with her face plastered on posters, shoes and lunchboxes. The original set pictures reflect this idea, but nothing in the released version would reveal this. Instead, what we got was an underdeveloped lead character who feels more like a cardboard cutout than an actual protagonist.

Now, we turn our attention to The Weeknd, who seems to be the true mastermind behind the show’s creative direction. This was his production company's first big project. He came up with the story and music, and acted as the show’s secondary lead. As you watch the show, you start to realize that there isn’t anything to his character. He is a scumbag who wants to produce music, and that’s the extent of him. What’s his motivation? Money, fame, power? You’re waiting for something more and it never comes. It would take a much more seasoned and skilled actor to pull off what he is attempting. Needless to say, he doesn’t do a great job.

There are some good parts, such as the nice music countered with mediocre songs just to be safe. Obviously, music taste is purely subjective, but the actual songs Jocelyn creates in the show are nothing special. In fact, some of them are quite bad. The cinematography in each episode ranges from “I’d put that on my wall” to “I can’t see anybody in the scene, please turn on a light..” Despite the material the actors have to work with, the acting ranges from not-that-bad to awful. The best acting comes from music producer Mike Dean, who plays himself: a man who, we are convinced, is not acting when he’s seen doing things like laughing with his fellow producers at the absurdity of events happening around them. There’s a moment in the final episode where Dean and his group start laughing at what can only be described as a 40-minute talent show. The way it’s presented in the show can only lead you to believe that what they are saying is not scripted. 

If the quality of a piece was determined not by the sum of its parts but rather by its individual parts, “The Idol” would be a 10. Maybe more like a seven. It’s not like there isn’t talent involved in the project. That’s why the end result was so shockingly bad. It’s almost impossible to watch this show due to its content and structure, and it’s even harder to watch it without being frustrated about what it could have been. It feels like you’re watching the money it took to make the show burn up right before your eyes. 

“The Idol” feels like it’s constantly on the verge of being interesting but just leaves you disgusted and confused. It ends with one of the most baffling twists which even in retrospect doesn’t make any sense. We went back and rewatched the show while writing this article to see if it was as befuddling as we remembered and whether it was really deserving of all the hate. To put it simply, it was. Less than two months after the release of the final episode, the show was unceremoniously canceled by HBO. “The Idol” ended up being a sloppily put-together disaster that the audience refused to accept. You wanna watch a good show from HBO? Watch “The Sopranos,” “Barry,” “Succession” or even “Euphoria.” Just don’t watch “The Idol,” aka the worst show on television.


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