California; Hayward — After months of rumors and controversy from legacy media organizations surrounding HBO’s new original show, “The Idol”, the series finally released its first episode Sunday. The latest addition to the newly revamped “MAX” platform stars Lily-Rose Depp and world famous singer Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye. They play the roles of Jocelyn and Tedros, respectively. Many film and TV critics had their reservations prior to release regarding the show’s lack of depth and extremely vulgar nature which led to the most current Rotten Tomatoes score of 25 percent. I am here to let you know my perspective after viewing the new show.
I want to start off by saying that the show was always doomed to premature negative press due to the names surrounding the production, primarily, Sam Levinson’s involvement as the director. The “Euphoria” director has been rumored to be difficult to work with by some actors on set. Grievances regarding lack of professionalism and vision were mentioned during the production of “Euphoria” and “The Idol”. Also, the fact that the show is very provocative in nature made a lot of people overlook the plot and themes surrounding the show.
With all that in mind, it’s safe to say that a lot of the issues mentioned with the show by other outlets felt exaggerated. I was expecting the full blown nudity and overtly sexual scenes from the first episode but it felt more tame than an average “Euphoria” episode. Were there some scenes that made me feel uncomfortable? Absolutely. Were the scenes that made me feel discomfort scripted to invoke those kinds of feelings? Absolutely.
The Weeknd’s first big stint as an actor so far is proving to be a good one because his work as Tedros brought out the most nervous laughter I have ever let out audibly. He plays a nightclub owner who is also a supposed cult leader. Whether or not his acting is too good to be just acting remains to be seen, but he was able to pull off the superficial LA creep vibe in a way that made me question so many things about him as a person and an actor. I think Lily-Rose Depp does a tremendous job of being the pop star who is trying to balance her real life issues and the persona she has to put on for the world. Overall, the casting seems to be very strong for the main characters.
With everything said, there were some things that I had an issue with. I don’t believe that every idea should make it on-screen and with “The Idol”, it seems like there are no holds barred. Some scenes were really difficult to witness, especially scenes between Tedros and Jocelyn. I tried to understand the vision but I don’t think every reaction in the world is necessary regardless of what the writers and production team want. I understand that edgy television draws more attention, but I think it takes a lot away from the depth of an otherwise important narrative.
I truly believe “The Idol” is going to be a show that sheds light on the darkest side of the entertainment industry. There’s a clear effort to portray the celebrity lifestyle as superficial and two-faced. I think the initial episode for the new series was a slow exposition to a tale of manipulation and misogyny in entertainment and media that contained cheap efforts to produce reactions which otherwise take away from an important narrative. The bad press from media outlets is seemingly appearing to be untrue, but time will tell how accurate the complaints were. Episode 1 gets a 6.5/10 from me.
Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.
Edited by Nykeya Woods