The much-anticipated HBO series The Idol, from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and starring the Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) and Lily-Rose Depp, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday (22 May).
The show follows the life of troubled popstar Jocelyn (Depp), who is taken in by Tedros, a leader of a cult (Tesfaye). It was a rare TV production to be screened at the Grand Théâtre Lumière as part of the yearly French film festival.
But the first critical impressions are not good. In fact, some of the opinions being shared by reviewers on social media are outright angry at the depiction of one of the show's central characters portrayed by Depp.
“Levinson’s worldview seems corrupt,” said Variety’s Peter Debruge. “It shouldn’t take degradation and suffering to make Jocelyn stronger. Euphoria audiences won’t be too surprised by the shameful way he treats Depp’s character, as both she and the show appear trapped under The Weeknd’s thumb.”
That take is just one of a multitude of similar that take aim at the show that is finally making its debut appearance after a production riddled with issues - The Idol reportedly underwent extensive reshoots in the last two years.
Explicit scenes and gratuitous nudity are nothing new for prestige television, or shows that attempt to "push the boundaries", but The Idol seems particularly exploitative if early reviews are to be believed.
The New York Times’s Kyle Buchanan wrote: dubbed the show "50 SHADES OF TESFAYE" and described it as a "Pornhub-homepage odyssey starring Lily-Rose Depp’s areolas and The Weeknd’s greasy rat tail, while said that the first two episodes of the show contain several nude scenes, with one showing "revenge porn photos of bodily fluids on Depp's face."
The Hollywood Reporter's Lovia Gyarkye also gave the upcoming drama a disappointing review, calling it "more regressive than transgressive." The review details how HBO advertised the series as being from the "sick and twisted minds" of the Weeknd and Levinson to draw viewers in with the promise of sex-fuelled debauchery.
The critic also brings up a scene in which a music executive berates a director to "stop c***blocking America," claiming that it "puts a metaphorical hand up at incoming haters" adding, "sex sells, and The Idol revels in that." The review also criticises Depp's character's "gratuitous" nudity, saying that "rarely does a scene go by without the camera showing flashes of her breasts or a**."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the series shares Euphoria's penchant for "graphic sex, cute clothes and self-destruction." Jocelyn's "naked, and near-naked, breasts are on constant display," it says, and "the term 'porn' is not inaccurate" in describing the show, which includes "several sex scenes that are graphic (especially aurally) even by HBO standards."
Though, if you're planning to watch purely for titillation, you may be disappointed, as the review says those scenes are so "ham-fisted" that it's "tough to imagine anyone" would consider them "erotic".
Despite the critical mauling of the hotly anticipated and contentious new drama starring, it did receive a five-minute standing ovation from those attending the screening, and some more positive comments about the show have been made, even by the above critics.
Some reviewers did give Depps's on-screen performance high marks, including The Hollywood Reporter. which described it as "persuasive."
When can I watch it?
If you still want to give The Idol a go for yourself, the series debuts on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Monday 5 June in the UK; in the US, it debuts on HBO and Max on Sunday 4 June.