|Directed by||Sam Levinson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Production locations||Los Angeles, California|
|Editor||Julio C. Perez IV|
The Idol is an American drama television series created by Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye, Reza Fahim, and Sam Levinson. The series focuses on an aspiring pop idol (Lily-Rose Depp) and her complex relationship with a self-help guru and cult leader Tedros (Tesfaye). Appearing in supporting roles are Suzanna Son, Troye Sivan, Moses Sumney, Jane Adams, Dan Levy, Jennie Ruby Jane, Eli Roth, Rachel Sennott, Hari Nef, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Dean, Ramsey, and Hank Azaria. The series will also mark the final television appearance of Anne Heche, who died on August 11, 2022.
The Idol's first two episodes premiered on May 22, 2023 at 76th Cannes Film Festival where it was panned by critics for its graphic sexual content and themes. It is scheduled to begin airing on HBO on June 4, 2023.
The Idol focuses on Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), an aspiring pop idol who, after having a nervous breakdown that causes her last tour to be canceled, resolves to reclaim her title as the sexiest pop star in America and begins a complex relationship with Tedros (Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye), a self-help guru and the head of a contemporary cult.
|No.||Title ||Directed by ||Written by ||Original air date ||U.S. viewers|
|1||"Pop Tarts & Rat Tales"||Sam Levinson||Story by : Abel Tesfaye & Reza Fahim & Sam Levinson|
Teleplay by : Sam Levinson
|June 4, 2023||TBD|
|2||"Double Fantasy"||Sam Levinson||Story by : Abel Tesfaye & Sam Levinson|
Teleplay by : Sam Levinson
|June 11, 2023||TBD|
|3||"Daybreak"||Sam Levinson||Story by : Abel Tesfaye & Sam Levinson|
Teleplay by : Sam Levinson
|June 18, 2023||TBD|
|4||TBA||Sam Levinson||Story by : Abel Tesfaye & Sam Levinson|
Teleplay by : Sam Levinson
|June 25, 2023||TBD|
On June 29, 2021, the Weeknd announced that he would be creating, executive producing and co-writing a drama series for HBO alongside Reza Fahim and Sam Levinson. On the same day, Ashley Levinson and Joseph Epstein were announced as executive producers for the series, with Epstein also serving as a writer and the series' showrunner. Mary Laws was also announced as a writer and will serve as a co-executive producer, alongside Tesfaye's co-manager Wassim Slaiby and his creative director La Mar Taylor. Amy Seimetz was signed on as the director and as an executive producer.
On November 22, HBO gave the production a series order for a first season consisting of six episodes. On January 14, 2022, Deadline Hollywood reported that Nick Hall had joined the production as an executive producer, following his move to A24 to oversee creative for the company's television slate.
In the initial announcement, Tesfaye revealed that he would be starring in the series. On September 29, 2021, it was reported that Lily-Rose Depp had signed on to play the female lead opposite Tesfaye. On November 22, Suzanna Son, Steve Zissis, and Troye Sivan joined the main cast, while Melanie Liburd, Tunde Adebimpe, Elizabeth Berkley, Nico Hiraga and Anne Heche were announced as recurring characters. On December 2, Juliebeth Gonzalez joined the cast as a series regular, while Maya Eshet, Tyson Ritter, Kate Lyn Sheil, Liz Caribel Sierra and Finley Rose Slater were cast in recurring roles.
On April 25, 2022, Variety reported that the show was set to undergo a major overhaul, with "drastic" changes in the cast and creative directions. On April 27, Deadline Hollywood reported that Son, Zissis and Gonzalez were not expected to return. In July, actors Rachel Sennott and Hari Nef, along with Jennie Ruby Jane joined the cast; Moses Sumney, Jane Adams, Dan Levy, Eli Roth, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Dean, Ramsey, and Hank Azaria were confirmed as cast members on August 21 in the second teaser trailer. On March 1, 2023, Rolling Stone reported that Son and Sivan remained in the cast despite the overhaul.
Principal photography began in November 2021 in and around Los Angeles, California. Production was temporarily paused in April 2022 due to Tesfaye co-headlining the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with Swedish House Mafia on short notice. On April 25, Variety reported that Seimetz had left the project amid its creative overhaul, with roughly 80% of the series already filmed. HBO released a statement following Seimetz's exit, saying: "The Idol's creative team continues to build, refine, and evolve their vision for the show and they have aligned on a new creative direction. The production will be adjusting its cast and crew accordingly to best serve this new approach to the series. We look forward to sharing more information soon."
Levinson reportedly took over Seimetz's directing duties. According to IndieWire and other sources, Tesfaye wanted to tone down the "cult" aspect of the story, and felt concerned that the show was "leaning too much into a female perspective." Levinson embarked on a reshoot and rewrite of the series, scrapping Seimetz's approach to the story — a troubled starlet falling victim to a predatory industry figure and fighting to reclaim her own agency — to instead depict a love story, with a heavier emphasis on sexual content and nudity.
Production resumed in late May 2022 and was paused again in early July, just as Tesfaye began embarking on his After Hours til Dawn Tour. Scenes from The Idol were filmed in September at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California during Tesfaye's tour. Audience members were notified of the filming before the concert commenced.
The series' soundtrack, The Idol Vol. 1, will include songs created by the Weeknd himself and supporting cast member Mike Dean, among others. "Double Fantasy" (featuring Future) was released as the lead single from the soundtrack on April 21, 2023. "Popular", a collaboration with Playboi Carti and Madonna, was released as the second single from the soundtrack on June 2, 2023.
The Idol premiered out-of-competition at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2023, where the series received a five-minute standing ovation following the screening of its first two episodes. This is also where Sam Levinson announced that the show was taking place in the same universe as his other HBO show, Euphoria. It marks the fifth television series to be screened at the festival after Carlos, Too Old to Die Young, Twin Peaks, and Irma Vep. The series is scheduled to premiere on HBO and Max on June 4, 2023.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Idol holds a rating of 25%, based on 16 critic reviews with an average rating of 3.1/10. The site's consensus reads: "Every bit as florid and sleazy as the industry it seeks to satirize, The Idol places itself on a pedestal with unbridled style but wilts under the spotlight." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average, the series holds a score of 24 out of 100, based on 11 reviews indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
In his review for Vanity Fair, following its premiere of the first two episodes at Cannes, Richard Lawson described The Idol as "a tawdry tale of sex gone scary, dressed up in the visual vernacular of TV's wunderkind du jour". Lawson admired the performances of Depp and the supporting cast, and ultimately concluded: "The Idol offers up enough regular old entertainment to balance out his aggressive flourish and the bluster of [Levinson's] thematic ambitions. Just don't approach the first two episodes with any notion that you are about to see something startling and transgressive. Maybe that stuff is coming in later episodes, but thus far, The Idol is way too Top 40 to rattle the squares". Remarking that "in trying so hard to be transgressive, the show ultimately becomes regressive", Lovia Gyarke of The Hollywood Reporter observed: "The Idol shows glimmers of potential when it stops trying so hard to be shocking. There's a strenuousness to the sex scenes between Depp and Tesfaye that kills any sense of eroticism. It's a relief when the show moves away from them and focuses on Joceyln's struggle to stage a comeback […] When we see the young star trying to recommit to music — through conversation with Tedros or physically taxing music video rehearsals — the show feels like it's working toward a more interesting thesis instead of just being one long advertisement for a cursed experience".
In a particularly unfavorable review for Rolling Stone, David Fear described the first two episodes as "nasty, brutish, much longer than it is, and way, way worse than you'd have anticipated", and lamented: "The Idol wraps everything up in a contradictory morality tale that suggests the music industry views young female stars the way that wolves view red-hooded gamines in fairy tales while letting you revel in the same predatory heavy-breathing voyeurism […] It has mistaken misery for profundity, stock perversity for envelope-pushing, crude caricatures for sharp satire, toxicity for complexity, nipple shots for screen presence". Writing for Vogue, Douglas Greenwood called the series a "a gorgeous-looking horror show", commending the visual style and cast performances, and concluded: "Whether The Idol will go down in history as a misfire of high-budget misogyny or a telling depiction of the terrifying trappings of fame will likely depend on who you talk to. The same audiences that fell hard for Euphoria […] will likely do the same for this one. It is buzzy, brazen television that will do exactly what it set out to do: get people talking".
|Award / Film Festival||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Guild of Music Supervisors Awards||March 5, 2023||Best Music Supervision in a Trailer – Series||Scenery Sumandra, Gregory Sweeney – Official Teaser #3||Nominated|||
|Cannes Film Festival||May 27, 2023||Queer Palm||Sam Levinson||Nominated|||
he was expecting to immediately jump on a plane to wrap filming in L.A in the six days between his Toronto and Philadelphia gigs.