Controversial HBO drama ‘The Idol’ receives dismal ratings and scathing reviews - Here's why

May 24, 2023 09:46 PM IST

HBO's "The Idol" receives scathing reviews for explicit content and regressive narrative, becoming one of the network's worst-rated shows.

Television critics got an exclusive preview of HBO's highly anticipated drama series, "The Idol," at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and the reviews are pouring in. Unfortunately for the show's creators and stars, the response has been far from idolizing. The series, which features musician The Weeknd in a starring role, has received a barrage of negative criticism, earning a dismal 9 percent Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. With the controversy surrounding its explicit content and regressive narrative, "The Idol" is being hailed as one of HBO's worst-rated shows to date.

HBO's "The Idol" receives scathing reviews at Cannes, labeled as one of the network's worst-rated shows due to explicit content and regressive storyline. (HBO MAX)
HBO's "The Idol" receives scathing reviews at Cannes, labeled as one of the network's worst-rated shows due to explicit content and regressive storyline. (HBO MAX)

In "The Idol," The Weeknd portrays Tedros, a charismatic nightclub owner and cult leader, who becomes entangled in a complicated relationship with struggling pop star Jocelyn, played by Lily-Rose Depp. The show's first two episodes were met with a five-minute standing ovation at Cannes, as reported by Variety. However, critics have not shared the same enthusiasm, unleashing scathing reviews that have left the series in tatters.

David Fear of Rolling Stone did not hold back in his scathing review, describing the show as "nasty, brutish, [feeling] much longer than it is, and way, way worse than you'd have anticipated." Other critics echoed these sentiments, criticizing the series for its overtly sexual nature and what some have called "torture porn." Rory Doherty of Paste Magazine denounced the substance-through style of "The Idol," finding it phony, uninspired, and manipulative, much like the music industry it attempts to critique.

Jo-Ann Titmarsh of the London Evening Standard highlighted the abundance of sexual content in the show, suggesting that it glorifies "rape culture" and trades genuine sexiness for sleaze and torture. Collider's Therese Lacson found the series to be surprisingly dull, questioning how a show with copious amounts of nudity, sex, and eroticism could be so bland.

The explicit and controversial nature of "The Idol" has caused a stir among critics, who argue that it perpetuates harmful narratives and fails to offer any meaningful critique of the entertainment industry. While the show received a standing ovation at Cannes, the overwhelmingly negative reviews have dampened expectations for its HBO premiere on June 4.

Also Read | The Idol creator reacts to controversial exposé article at Cannes press con, calls it ‘biggest show of summer’

The question now arises: Will the scathing reviews prevent a potential season renewal for "The Idol"? While bad reviews are never a positive sign, there have been instances where high viewership has managed to secure a second season for poorly received shows. Even with the abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score, there may still be hope for "The Idol" if enough viewers tune in and generate significant interest. Despite the negative reception, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, a cast member of the series, remains confident that a second season will come to fruition.

As the controversial series prepares to make its debut on HBO, audiences will have the final say on whether "The Idol" can redeem itself or if it will fade into obscurity. With its explicit content, regressive narrative, and critical panning, the future of "The Idol" hangs in the balance. Only time will tell if it can overcome the controversy and find its place among HBO's esteemed lineup or if it will be forever remembered as a monumental misstep in television history.

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