Parents Television Council Calls on HBO to Cancel ‘The Idol,’ Citing ‘Torture Porn’ and ‘Sexual Abuse’

The Sam Levinson-created series has been widely criticized for lurid and superfluous sex scenes

Lily-Rose Depp in "The Idol" (HBO)

The Parents Television and Media Council has called on HBO to cancel music industry drama “The Idol,” citing its depiction of “torture porn” and “sexual abuse” as sinking into “such depravity.”

The organization, which focuses on advocating for responsible entertainment for children, has suggested an end to the Sam Levinson-created series, which has been widely criticized for lurid and superfluous sex scenes that some critics have said depict male rape fantasies.

Additionally, PTC also demanded that the network’s streaming platform Max halt marketing directed to youth through social media for the show, and requested that the streamer tighten up its “wide gaps in its parental ‘controls’” that is responsible for younger audiences having access to watch “The Idol” and “other explicit TV-MA content like ‘Euphoria.’”

A representative for HBO did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. But parental controls for the streamer, which stands at a TV-MA rating, can be accessed within the app.

“’The Idol’ has been rightfully panned by TV critics because each episode delves deeper into ‘torture porn’ and sexual abuse,” Parents Television and Media Council vice president Melissa Henson said in a statement. “Far from enlightening, the show has sunk into such depravity that even its niche audience has clearly turned against it, otherwise, why would HBO only air five of the expected seven episodes? HBO should run far from this Sam Levinson-produced program that glamorizes and egregiously markets extreme sexual abuse to teens by refusing to renew it for a second season.”

Despite the PTC’s assertion about the show’s audience, “The Idol” premiere tracked at 3.6 million viewers a week out from its premiere, outpacing the premiere viewership for the first seasons of “Euphoria” and “The White Lotus” at the same point in time, which brought in 3.3 million in 2019 and 3 million viewers in 2021, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that “The Idol” initially received a six-episode order, though the episode count shifted to five episodes when the music industry drama was reconceived after director Amy Seimetz exited the project in April 2022 and Levinson and Tesfaye took the helm for the show’s direction, prompting significant reshoots.

Co-created by Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Levinson and Reza Fahim, “The Idol” follows rebounding pop star Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), who takes her best stab at a comeback journey to become the No. 1 pop star after a nervous breakdown derailed her last tour. 

The network has yet to make a decision on a potential sophomore season.