HBO’s ‘The Idol’ Divides Cannes Audiences: ’50 Shades of Tesfaye’

The first two episodes of the Sam Levinson show starring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye screened Monday

Abel Tesfay aka The Weeknd as Tedros in "The Idol" (Warner Discovery)
Warner Discovery

One of the biggest premieres at this year’s Cannes Film Festival wasn’t for a movie but rather a TV show as audience members geared up to witness the first two episodes of what appears to be HBO’s next big event show, “The Idol.”

First reactions for the Sam Levinson-produced melodrama, which follows a young pop star (Lily-Rose Depp) who falls under the sway of a potentially dangerous nightclub promoter (Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye) are in, and they range anywhere from “a Pornhub-homepage odyssey starring Lily Rose Depp’s areolas and The Weeknd’s greasy rat tail” to “it’s really more like somebody put ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Succession’ and ‘Secretary’ in a blender and let it rip.”

One thing is clear, however, “Sam Levinson fans won’t be disappointed.”

The series, which will debut Sunday, June 4, at 9 p.m. on HBO and be available to stream on the new streaming platform Max, has been beset by months of controversy and allegations of a chaotic production.

This includes a Rolling Stone article, following the departure of original director Amy Seimetz, that described the set as being in chaos with the show extensively reshot. Charges that the show became “an exercise in sexual torture porn” made headlines, even as both HBO and eventually The Weeknd denied that the process was anything more than standard production wrinkles.

Depp, who Tesfaye describes as “the show’s third creator,” told Vanity Fair, “I think it’s interesting that people have so much to say about the show already and they haven’t even seen it.”

Now that audiences have seen the first episodes, is the show a trainwreck? Did it turn out pretty well despite the alleged backstage melodrama? Are the salacious descriptions of the show’s content accurate in terms of its moral bent or is it another example of potentially wrongheaded “depiction equals endorsement” discourse? Well, see for yourself…