The five-episode drama stars Lily-Rose Depp as emerging popstar Jocelyn, who begins a complicated relationship with cult-leader Tedros (Abel Tesfaye, popularly known by his stage name, The Weeknd).
And now, following its season finale, released on Sunday (2 July), the final verdicts are in, with many critics seeming to mutually agree that it’s a “boring” failure.
“It is not just that The Idol is one of the worst programmes ever made – it’s also possibly the most squandered opportunity ever,” Leila Latif wrote in her one-star review for The Guardian. “Giant budget aside, post-Britney Spears, Kesha and Amy Winehouse, it’s high time to satirise pop starlet tragedies – and with this production featuring Hank Azaria, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Hari Nef and Rachel Sennott, it had more than enough talent to do so.”
“Instead,” she argued, “we get the limp, glazed-over, chain-smoking nothingness of Lily-Rose Depp and a performance from Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye that should be tried at The Hague.”
Latif added that despite viewers being braced for shocks, “nothing can prepare you to be so incredibly bored.”
Although Latif’s review is perhaps the harshest, fellow critics shared similar sentiments.
Ed Power called The Idol “the worst TV show of the year” in his one-star review for The Telegraph.
Referring to it as HBO’s “disastrous music industry drama”, he claimed that it “became as illogical as it was boring and sexist”.
“It resembles nothing so much as a soft-porn tribute to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut,” Power wrote, going as far as to suggest that The Idol “could ruin” the streamer’s “reputation for years”.
The New York Times’s Esther Zuckerman found that the series finale “had shockingly little to say about either pop music or power dynamics”, leading her to question: “What was the point of all that?”
“After all of this, I still don’t know what drives Jocelyn and Tedros,” she said. “That is the greatest failing of The Idol.”
GQ UK’s Lucy Ford agreed that the show “climaxed depressingly”, adding that its “big finale twist makes no sense”.
“Twists are one of the funnest tropes in TV and film,” Ford wrote. “But twists are only satisfying when they line up. The Idol isn’t a tightly plotted thriller like The Usual Suspects or Shutter Island, or any of the erotic thrillers where there’s a great second watch to be found in knowing the ending. Instead, all you’ll find is gaping narrative holes and indifference in characters disguised as depth.”
The Idol is available to stream on Max in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK.