As rumours spread about HBO axing Sam Levinson’s doomed show, we trace the reasons why The Idol has been such a flop
It’s hard to think of a recent show that’s been as controversial as The Idol. Since Rolling Stone dropped their wild exposé on the show back in March, the HBO drama has been mired in scandal – and not in a fun, sexy way either.
The show, which is set against the backdrop of the music industry, was meant to be an empowering story about a young, female pop star reclaiming her agency within the predatory, abusive industry. But according to one production member, “it went from satire to the thing it was satirising”. Sam Levinson, the show’s director, faced accusations of shoehorning sexual and violent scenes into the script, and wasting millions of dollars during production.
Things went from bad to worse as the show was panned by critics following its premiere, and now rumours are swirling that HBO is pulling the plug on the whole thing and even ending the series one episode earlier than expected.
Here’s a rundown of all the chaos and drama that has surrounded this cursed show.
THEY WASTED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ON PRODUCTION
The trouble began when Rolling Stone published their scathing takedown of the show in March this year. Members of the show’s cast and crew revealed that when Levinson took over as director, he scrapped Amy Seimetz’s nearly-finished project and started from scratch – wasting between $54 and $75 million dollars in the process.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, crew slammed the decision as “wasteful”. One production member, who had spent decades in Hollywood, said the decision to redo the entire show was probably “the most egregious I’ve ever witnessed in this business.”
SAM LEVINSON BEING A CREEP (AS PER)
The exposé also claimed that some versions of Levinson’s scripts for The Idol reportedly contained disturbing, violent and sexual scenes between Lily-Rose Depp and The Weeknd. Allegedly, one draft episode included a scene where The Weeknd’s character Tedros beats Depp’s character Jocelyn. Jocelyn then asks to be beaten more, giving Tedros an erection. Another scene reportedly featured Jocelyn carrying an egg in her vagina, with Tedros “refusing to rape her” if she dropped or cracked the egg – prompting Jocelyn to beg Tedros to rape her. One of the sources who spoke to Rolling Stone put it best when they described the scenes as “like sexual torture porn.”
Fans of Euphoria likely weren’t surprised by these revelations, as Levinson already has a bit of a rep for being a creep on set and has previously been accused of encouraging actresses to shoot an unnecessary number of nude scenes. It’s worth noting that Lily-Rose Depp has since stressed that she “never felt more respected and safe” than when she was on The Idol set – though I believe this is what people call being ‘delulu’ x
THE WEEKND’S CRINGE CLAPBACK
The Weeknd then hit back at the Rolling Stone article with a toe-curlingly cringe tweet. He posted a brief clip from the show where his character denounces the magazine as “irrelevant”, captioned: “@RollingStone did we upset you?”
A perfectly normal way to respond to allegations that your show is “sexual torture porn”!
...AND HIS HORRIBLE ACTING
THE POOR RATINGS
Things were looking bleak for The Idol at this point, but I reckon they still could have turned things around if the show was genuinely a masterpiece. Maybe this would be a breakout role for The Weeknd? Maybe all the weird scenes seemed disturbing on paper, but were actually very tastefully directed and performed? Maybe none of the violence was gratuitous at all, and was all completely necessary in order to make some profound statement about the savage nature of the music industry? Maybe the backlash was just a symptom of Gen Z ‘Puriteen’ culture?
But no, The Idol’s initial score on Rotten Tomatoes was a shocking nine per cent (it’s since clawed its way up to a no less embarrassing score of 22 per cent). Critics panned the show: the Guardian gave it two stars and called it “boring” and “unsexy”; another review from the same publication went further and branded it as “nauseating, hateful TV”. The FT called it “sleazy and self-defeating”, while one Esquire writer called a ‘torture’ scene in the fourth episode a “new low”.
THE SIXTH EPISODE CONSPIRACY THEORY
As if things couldn’t get any more chaotic, some people are now speculating that HBO has decided to abruptly end the show after the fifth episode – even though it was originally reported back in 2021 that the show would air six episodes – and even gone as far as ruling out a second season. The theory goes that HBO brutally cancelled the show due to all the negative press it has received.
However, while it would be funny to think that HBO suddenly stopped airing the show mid-season because it was so bad, it doesn’t seem like this is the case. The Weeknd referred to the show as a “five hour film” in a recent GQ interview and it was billed as a five-episode series during its Cannes premiere. References to the show comprising six episodes also date back to before the show’s original director, Amy Seimetz, left the production, so it seems that when Levinson took over the series was shortened to five episodes. Plus, HBO has clarified that they’ve not yet made a decision regarding renewing the show for a second season.
Here’s hoping it’s a no ❤️