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The Idol

Farewell, The Idol: HBO axes the cursed show

In news which will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, there will not be a second season of Sam Levinson’s doomed series

HBO’s The Idol has been cancelled after just one season, according to a statement issued by HBO on Monday (August 28).

“The Idol was one of HBO’s most provocative original programs, and we’re pleased by the strong audience response,” the spokesperson said. “After much thought and consideration, HBO, as well as the creators and producers, have decided not to move forward with a second season.”

And, honestly, is anyone shocked? To say the show has been one of HBO’s “most provocative original programs” and elicited a “strong audience response” is a hell of an understatement.

The HBO drama appears to have been cursed from the moment The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) reportedly voiced his concerns that the original show was focusing too much on the “female perspective” and Sam Levinson took the reins from director Amy Seimetz. (For the record, Seimetz’s version of the show was meant to be an empowering story about a young, female pop star reclaiming her agency within a predatory industry. Leaked behind-the-scenes pictures of the production of Seimetz’s version looked pretty good, leading some people to demand HBO release her version, which was around 80 per cent complete before Levinson took over.)

The ugly behind-the-scenes drama came to light when Rolling Stone published their exposé on the show back in March, revealing that some early versions of Levinson’s scripts for The Idol reportedly contained disturbing and violent sexual scenes between Lily-Rose Depp and Tesfaye. One draft allegedly included a scene where Depp’s character Jocelyn carries an egg in her vagina, with Tesfaye’s character Tedros “refusing to rape her” if she drops or cracks the egg, prompting Jocelyn to beg Tedros to rape her. Supposedly, this scene was never filmed because the production department couldn’t find a way to shoot it realistically without having Depp actually put an egg in her vagina. One of the sources who worked on The Idol and spoke to Rolling Stone described the scenes as akin to “sexual torture porn.”

In response to these pretty troubling allegations, Tesfaye did the most cringe thing imaginable: he hit back at Rolling Stone on Twitter, posting a clip from the show where his character denounces the magazine as “irrelevant”, captioned: “@RollingStone did we upset you?”. 

When The Idol was finally released in June this year, things went from bad to worse. Poor reviews streamed in: Rolling Stone called the show “way, way worse than you’d have anticipated”, The i dubbed it “the most chauvinistic series in recent memory”. The Guardian went as far as describing it as “one of the worst programs ever made”.

In response to the deluge of bad press, Tesfaye got weirdly defensive again, saying that the backlash was “very much expected”, adding, “we’re playing with genres with this show, we’re doing exactly what we wanted to do and none of this is a surprise”. He responded similarly to negative comments about his character’s sex scene with Depp, arguing that it “wasn’t meant to be sexy [...] we did that on purpose”. He consistently stuck to the line that nobody got what the show was all about, and that it was meant to be misogynistic and horrible – apparently without realising that, no, people did get it, they just still didn’t like it.

Rumours swirled in July that the show had been cancelled, with some believing that the first season had even been shortened from six episodes to five as a result of the volume of backlash the program was receiving. HBO soon squashed these rumours by putting out a statement clarifying that they had not yet come to a decision regarding the show’s second season, but really, it was only a matter of time before it was announced that the network was pulling the plug on The Idol. A fitting way to end this absolute car crash of a show.

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