“After much thought and consideration, HBO, as well as the creators and producers have decided not to move forward with a second season,” said a HBO spokesperson to Variety. “We’re grateful to the creators, cast, and crew for their incredible work.”
The news is far from a surprise: the controversial five-episode miniseries which told the story of a young ambitious pop star in Hollywood currently has a 19% Tomatometer rating, and was described by various reviewers as “one of the worst programmes ever made”, “overheated”, and “so fascinatingly bad”.
The Standard gave it two stars, arguing the show “feels more like sleaze and torture porn” and that it was “troubling in its depiction of women”.
The series told the story of Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), a young pop star who is planning her comeback after a tour cancellation. She becomes emotionally entangled with sleazy nightclub owner Tedros (Tesfaye).
Starring musician Troye Sivan, model Hari Nef, producer Mike Dean, Simpsons star Hank Azaria, and new screen favourite Rachel Sennott, fans of The Weeknd and Depp had high hopes for the series.
Depp had declared she adored making The Idol, saying, “This has been the most meaningful and important project that I’ve ever done, and the thing that I’m the proudest of. I don’t know where to begin.” And as the Standard explained it in its series deep dive, “on paper, the story... had all the makings of a biting satire, skewering fame in the post-MeToo era.”
But the series was mired in controversy from the off. Created by Tesfayethe, alongside entrepreneur-turned-writer Reza Fahim and director Sam Levinson, filmmaker Amy Seimetz, who co-directed the TV series The Girlfriend Experience, was onboard as the series director.
But then, according to Rolling Stone, she left the project in Spring 2022 when “roughly 80 per cent of the six-episode series” had been filmed. In a statement, HBO said this was due to the show taking a “new creative direction”. Levinson, who made the award-winning teen drama series Euphoria, took on the directorial role, and created a five-episode show.
Then, in a searing report published by Rolling Stone this March, 13 sources who had worked on The Idol said the making of the show had, “gone wildly, disgustingly off the rails”: “What I signed up for was a dark satire of fame and the fame model in the 21st century... [but] It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing,” said one anonymous producer in the article.
According to the Stones article, Levinson and Tesfaye had been allegedly floating some concerning storylines as they were making the show, such as one where Tedros beats up Jocelyn, who smiles and asks for more while Tedros gets an erection.
Tesfaye did not respond to the article’s allegations directly, but tweeted “@RollingStone did we upset you?”.
Then again, in the same article, other sources told Rolling Stone they had a better experience on set: “It couldn’t have been a better crew from my standpoint, from both Amy and in Sam’s case across the board. [They are] completely professional people, thinking ahead, people problem solving on a dime, being collaborators and caring,” said one.
When The Idol was released in June, reviewers heavily criticised its gratuitous use of sex: The Hollywood Reporter described the show as, “more regressive than transgressive”, saying that, “rarely does a scene go by without the camera showing flashes of her breasts or ass.”
The Standard said much the same: “[Jocelyn] has no real agency and there is more than a strong hint of 50 Shades of Grey, the woman objectified, humiliated and physically hurt. Asphyxiation crops up frequently in the first two episodes, Jocelyn either pressing down on her throat while masturbating or having a sash bound tightly around her neck. While Depp is virtually naked throughout, Tesfaye barely even takes his jacket off.”
The Idol is available to watch on Sky Atlantic and NOW