HBO’s ‘The Idol’ Review: Honestly Not Worth Your Time
— 6 June 2023

HBO’s ‘The Idol’ Review: Honestly Not Worth Your Time

— 6 June 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

Chances are, this won’t be the first review of HBO’s The Idol that you’ve encountered online. But hopefully, it’ll be the last.

Public opinion on HBO’s The Idol has swung wildly back and forth ever since it was first announced.

The initial excitement surrounding an X-rated drama about fame co-created by Sam Levinson (Euphoria), The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye), and the latter’s creative partner Reza Fahim alongside indie powerhouse A24 morphed to become something else entirely in the face of “controversy.”

Whether the production was actually as toxic and problematic as Rolling Stone’s damning expose claims is a discussion for another time. But what we will say is that this added element of “edginess” only served to attract an entirely new level of attention that would’ve caused the most morally ambiguous marketers to begin salivating.

HBO's 'The Idol' Review: Honestly Not Worth Your Time

Soon, there were two camps: those who had written it off as nothing more than “torture porn” and a “rape fantasy” with little substance/legitimate entertainment value – including the critics who uniformly panned it at the 76th Cannes Film Festival – and those who were convinced the outrage was a reactionary fabrication.

After last night’s premiere, we know that both schools of thought about HBO’s The Idol are partially true. It’s one big nothing burger. In fact, the most controversial thing about this high-production value exercise in cheap sex politics is how much time the world wasted caring, despite it being so… boring.

In its debut episode (‘Pop Tarts & Rat Tales’), The Idol introduces us to pop heroine Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), a product of the music industry who has apparently endured Britney Spears-level trials and tribulations, on a mission to reclaim her title as America’s sexiest pop star.

Jocelyn’s comeback is soon met with a highly-specific and rather gratuitous obstacle. Unbeknownst to her, someone has leaked a selfie of her with semen on her face. A “cumback,” if you will. And to make matters just a little worse, this all goes down as Vanity Fair writer Talia (Hari Nef) embeds herself within Jocelyn’s camp for what we assume will be an unflattering profile story.

While her team scrambles to action stations in an attempt to control the narrative and save what’s left of her reputation, Jocelyn hits a nightclub to let her hair down after a full day of racy photoshoots, racier dance choreography, and the usual dose of media scrutiny.

There, she meets the enigmatic nightclub owner/self-help guru/cult leader Tedros (Abel Tesfaye), and the complex romance which is supposed to serve as the very foundation of this entire affair kicks off in a decidedly bland fashion.

OK, let’s start with what the episode did right.

The cinematography, for one, is to be commended. Accomplished by Marcell Rév and Arseni Khachaturan, similar to Levinson’s award-winning Euphoria, it’s one of the few shows out there genuinely trying to shake things up. Distinctly analogue and wonderfully atmospheric, at times, it almost felt like a semi-decent visual homage to the collected works of legendary auteur Wong Kar-Wai.

HBO's 'The Idol' Review: Honestly Not Worth Your Time

We’d also be lying if we said we weren’t enticed by the onscreen talent featured. Aside from Depp, Tesfaye, and Nef, the blend of real-life music industry heavyweights (i.e. Australia’s own Troye Sivan, Blackpink’s Jennie) and certified thespians (i.e. Jane Adams, Hank Azaria, Eli Roth, Dan Levy) are often the sole elements provoking any kind of curiosity about what happens next.

As for everything else, well… you will have probably deduced where we stand. The writing is aimless, meandering between painfully modern dialogue and showbiz cliches. The direction is insipid, with every cut bringing you to question why that was the choice they went with after not-so-careful deliberation.

And the acting; let’s just say the only thing more ironic than the scene wherein Hank Azaria’s Chaim locks the photoshoot intimacy coordinator in a bathroom is the scene wherein The Weeknd’s Tedros tells Lily-Rose Depp’s Jocelyn, “I don’t believe you.” The latter two were, in a phrase, unbelievably wooden.

For the sake of all the effort involved – they essentially had to make the series twice due to a massive creative overhaul – we’ll give The Idol the benefit of another episode. After all, that’s pretty much my goddamn job. Anybody with more pressing commitments like a career, family, or literally anything else better to do, however, can probably give this one a miss.

HBO’s The Idol is now streaming on Binge, Foxtel, and Foxtel GO here in Australia.

The Idol

Rotten Tomatoes Score
Genre: Drama
Actors: Abel Tesfaye (AKA The Weeknd), Lily-Rose Depp, Suzanna Son, Troy Sivan, Jane Adams
Directed by: Sam Levinson

Now that you’ve read our HBO’s The Idol review, check out our thoughts on the recent Succession finale.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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