The likeness of HBO’s “The Idol” seems to be in decline a week after the “Succession” and “Barry” finales. Although ‘The Idol’ isn’t as bad, or offensive, as reports of production issues and early reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival might have made people believe, another large group believes it is outrightly boring to watch now, and maybe they are right.
Produced by Sam Levinson (“Euphoria,” who directed the opening episode) with star Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye and Reza Fahim, the show joins a long list of films and TV shows pulling back the curtain on the other side of the music or entertainment industry. Despite endeavoring to feel provocative, “The Idol” has many instances of very unnatural performances.
Lily-Rose Depp stars as Jocelyn, a Britney-like pop star (the comparison is overtly made) seeking to relaunch her career after a breakdown. She’s introduced as her assorted handlers fuss over and about her, reacting to a public-relations crisis created when a very private photo of her leaks online.
All of that amounts to an elongated teaser, though, before Jocelyn agrees to hang out at a club, where she meets its semi-mysterious owner, Tedros (Tesfaye), and seems to be immediately attracted to him. (“Seems” being the operative word, since Depp basically is allowed to have one expression through most of the episode, so it’s frankly hard to tell).
Although her assistant (Rachel Sennott) has all her doubts cleared that Tedros is bad news, Jocelyn invites him over and lets him listen to her new single, which was yet to be released. That creates an opening for him to begin his controlling act, telling her that she needs to open up sexually in order to become a convincing singer.
Where “The Idol” goes from there remains to be seen, but if the first chapter is any related, it will be difficult for the show to be particularly interesting. Unlike “Euphoria,” which traffics in pushing the sexual envelope around teenage characters (played, admittedly, by older actors), the glitzy backdrop actually works against the drama, such as it is, feeling edgy or distinctive.
HBO was proactive by not making “The Idol” available in advance to critics who didn’t catch its Cannes screening, a sign that the network (like CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) was hoping to avoid another drubbing before viewers had a chance to see it.
During another interaction, Tedros muses to the pop star, “You’ve got the best job in the world. You should be having way more fun.”
Whatever else “The Idol” is definitely not much fun to watch again.