Everything That Went Wrong With The Sam Levinson’s ‘The Idol’

After having completed the HBO show The Idol, all I can say about it is that it comes across as pretty mediocre. There’s no grand finale that can warrant the absence of a sixth episode, and a lot of the show looks rushed and poorly done. There are some things in the show that had the potential to make it great, for example, the styling by Natasha Newman-Thomas, which is impeccable and communicates the message of the show even better than the script; added to that, we can talk about Lily Rose-Depp’s fantastic acting, and the comic timing of actors like Rachel Sennott, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Eli Roth (I didn’t expect to say that ever) is pretty great even for the below-satisfactory dialogues that they have. Before I get into the things that really bother me about the show, there is, of course, the large amount of adult content in the show that is considered too much by many and just a stunt by others. Personally, I think it takes up too much space in a show that actually has a lot to say.

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While the ideation is there and some points are made, there’s a lack of continuity in the script, making everything look abrupt and rough. It was rather obvious that an episode got cut, and things were put together at the last minute for this season finale. We don’t know where in the timeline we are; how long does Tedros spend trying to manipulate Joss? After how long does Joss flip the switch on him? Considering the urgency there is regarding the tour and giving Chaim and D the songs, is it possible they spent only 2 weeks together and created such a strong bond? By the end, it’s almost as if Joss has imprinted on Tedros, making him hers “forever.” That is, after six weeks of no contact, the dots don’t join up here. Additionally, Chaim had Talia write up the nastiest article on Tedros (after being told by Joss to do so), so he leaves them for good, but even after all of that, he comes back for Joss? Make it make sense. There’s no way we can just leave it at, oh, it’s called The Idol, and since Joss is the star, she has the ability to hypnotize everybody just like a god.

While Joss’ character shows implications of manipulation or “negativity” in bouts, and if one is willing to spend their time rewatching the show, they might find some scenes to reflect Joss’ true personality, there are no signs of Tedros becoming a lapdog until Rob’s appearance. We always see him leading, never following, and then one day, he’s just an alcoholic who has no intention of doing his thing with all his prodigies. There’s no fight in him, even when he tells Xander to put on a show or talks to Nikki. The fact that the show tries to victimize Tedros in the end and tries to make us sympathize with him is the worst thing that could’ve happened. We even hear him being called “talented” for finding the young talent. So, he didn’t want to do anything with Joss except have her join his “club” of talented artists and be a part of his life so he could live off her money? What was next if Tedros was actually the one who had been the puppeteer and not Joss? Well, in the way the show turned out, nothing, it seems. He would’ve just watched her perform and become her muse. The development of their relationship seems to be happening in between episodes rather than during them. This is a common thread in a lot of new shows that have 8 or a few episodes where a lot needs to get covered in a short amount of time, making certain things happen off-screen. For some shows, this works out pretty well, but for The Idol, it didn’t.

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We can’t go without talking about the ancient dialogue of the show that makes one think, more than once, “How was this even allowed?” Not just visually, but in terms of some of the words being used, it’s absolutely distasteful. Of course, I can’t be talking about The Idol without mentioning the poorly shot music video scene and some other shots that clearly give out “male fantasy” vibes rather than “this girl is being manipulated by the industry” vibes. While it makes sense for Joss to dress however she likes and the choreographies to be of a more sexual kind, there’s no need to have a shot zoom in on her slapping her private parts; it’s all just for “aesthetic” reasons. Added to that, just like in Euphoria, Lily Rose-Depp appears quite young on screen, so it really reflects poorly when she’s being sexualized for no reason.

We have entire articles on why Dyanne and Leia were underutilized characters, but there are also loopholes in Xander’s story. It’s not really ambiguous if he keeps switching from one team to the other for convenience’s sake. Xander chooses to go on tour with Joss even after everything she puts him through, including torturing him with a shock collar. We can’t forget the fact that the only reason he wasn’t singing was that her mother had forced him to sign a contract and done him dirty by outing him to the public (not sure of what, because it’s never explicitly mentioned), but maybe we can assume that was actually all Joss’ doing.

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For a show such as this to work, we need to see well-fleshed-out characters and arcs to make sure the message is clear. Since the show so desperately wants to create a divide between Tedros and Jocelyn at the end, there needed to be an inkling of this right from the beginning. Instead, we spent half our time watching unnecessary graphic scenes that are possibly scarring, but considering the show is so forgettable, that’ll be forgotten too. Additionally, for a show about the music industry, we don’t actually get to see a stage performance. Since Joss is such a massive star that she has sold out a stadium, shouldn’t the show have ended with a massive performance by her of the song she made with Tedros? Instead, we got to see performance after performance within the showcase to the management in the episode that was so long that it could’ve covered half the pacing issues that we had thus far and given us some actual background as to why people started going bonkers and switching sides.

Why do we see Nikki and Tedros talking about working together and then D and Chaim talking about leaving Nikki behind and signing the artists themselves? Is it just all talk? Why was Nikki trying to suck up to a drunken Tedros even when it was clear that he was not pulling any strings at all? All the strings were cut and tied up at this point. It was just all over the place. Ultimately, The Idol is a big waste of potential and talented people that will be forgotten in no time.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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