HBO debuts its new series The Idol on Sunday, which has had no shortage of controversy leading up to its debut.
Early reviews have branded the show from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson as ‘toxic’ and ‘disturbing’ while a recent Rolling Stone report claimed the show bordered on ‘sexual torture porn’ while criticizing Levinson’s leadership on the set.
The series follows Lily-Rose Depp’s character Jocelyn, a singer who suffered a nervous breakdown on her last tour.
She meets up with the mysterious nightclub impresario Tedros (The Weeknd) to try and turn her career around in the sexually-charged series.
The series also stars Dan Levy, Jane Adams, Rachel Sernott, DaVine Joy Randolph, Hank Azaria, Elizabeth Berkley and the the Anne Heche in one of her final roles.
Controversy: HBO debuts its new series The Idol on Sunday, which has had no shortage of controversy leading up to its debut
Character: The series follows Lily-Rose Depp’s character Jocelyn , a singer who suffered a nervous breakdown on her last tour
The series begins with a warning that the episode contains ‘violence, nudity and sexual content.’
The first shot features Jocelyn at a photo shoot, as the photographer asks her to laugh then show off her ‘innocent’ look.
He asks her to look ‘studious’ and then ‘play with the camera’ before giving, ‘pure sex’ and ‘vulnerable’ looks.
The camera pulls back as Jocelyn appears to be crying, wearing an open red robe as the photographer keeps snapping away.
The shot shows others just out of the frame as they step in to primp her for more shots, as Jocelyn takes a drag of her cigarette before the title card is shown.
Nikki (Jane Adams) is talking with Chaim (Hank Azaria) just outside of the photo shoot as someone else argues she shouldn’t be wearing a hospital bracelet.
‘You people are so out of touch. Stop trying to cock-block America,’ Nikki says, as he explains he’s not a prude but he doesn’t think she should be wearing a hospital wristband as Nikki argues that, ‘Mental illness is sexy.’
‘If, if you live in Sioux City, Iowa, you are never gonna meet a girl like Jocelyn. She’s not walking down the street, she didn’t go to your high school, she doesn’t work at the bar or the diner, and she did not marry your best friend. And if, on the off chance, she did, she is still never, ever gonna f**k you. Unless, she has some very, very serious mental problems. And that right there is why mental illness is sexy,’ Nikki explains.
The producers explain that there is a very strict nudity rider and they can’t show her full breasts but they try to argue about how much of her breasts they can show.
Chaim pays someone $5,000 to hold someone in a room for the next three hours.
Meanwhile, Chaim and Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) reveal that a nude photo of Jocelyn has leaked on the internet.
‘Chaimy, it’s cum. On her face,’ Destiny tells Chaim, as they argue if it’s a selfie or not.
Leia (Rachel Sennot) adds, ‘Yeah, well, and she was on the ground.
‘When I find who did this, I’m gonna put a f***in’ bullet in his head. You understand this? And that’s gon’ be on your head,’ Chaim says.
A reporter from Vanity Fair, Talia (Hari Nef) arrives on the photo set, as does Andrew (Eli Roth) from LiveNation arrives.
Meanwhile, Chaim, Nikki and Talia talk about the photo while security finally lets Andrew in.
Jocelyn meets Talia, who says she grew up watching her on Rock House, as Talia says there must be ‘a lot’ today, as it’s clear Jocelyn doesn’t know about the leaked photo yet.
‘So no one’s told her about the photo yet?’ Talia asks as they don’t know how to react, as they watch Jocelyn rehearse with the dancers.
Dan Levy’s character, Andrew, Jocelyn’s publicist, is talking to someone on the phone about if they are sharing the leaked photo they are part of the problem.
Andrew complains about the photo being leaked because it will lead to less concert tickets being sold.
Jocelyn is talking with the choreographer who thinks she should take a break, as Nikki comes and talks to Andrew, as they worry she’s having a psychotic break.
Jocelyn is told to watch one of the dancers to take in every detail as the publicist warns everyone that the writer from Vanity Fair is there.
Jocelyn keeps watching but she wipes tears from under her sunglasses before she goes back to the dancers as one dancer tries to encourage her.
She looks up at everyone watching her from the balcony before starting the routine again, while glancing up at the Vanity Fair writer and her team.
The writer smiles while looking at the performance as Jocelyn throws herself into the sexually-charged routine while lip syncing the words to her song.
Her team starts cheering from the balcony as she nails the routine fully as they all clap for her.
Andrew asks the publicist if they got the revised statement from Holly, claiming the leaked photo was ‘revenge porn.’
‘Yeah, exactly that. Make sure that every dips**t with a keyboard has it spoon-fed down their f***in’ throat,’ Andrew says.
The publicist asks, ‘But it’s true?’ and Andrew adds, ‘Well, if we say it is,’ as the publicist says, ‘I’m in a “Twilight Zone” episode.’
The team finally tells Jocelyn that the photo leaked, as she responds, ‘I mean, it could be way worse.’
Later that night, she heads out to a nightclub with her friends, where Tedros (The Weeknd) notices her.
He gets on the mic and tells the crowd she’s there and says she’s ‘so beautiful’ and he wants to dance with her.
He makes her way over to her as they dance to Like a Prayer as they keep dancing and getting close.
He whispers to her, ‘Ah, you’re dangerous. I mean, how could anyone not fall in love with you?’
‘I don’t even know you,’ she says with a giggle before they start making out heavily.
They get to a stairwell as Jocelyn says, ‘I’ve never f***ed anyone with a rat tail before,’ with a laugh, while her friend Leia is looking for her with her bag.
She tells him to be quiet before she leaves as Tedros says she was a total ‘boner killer.’
Tedros asks when he can hear the new album but she says, ‘never,’ because she thinks the album is, ‘like, stupid and I hate it and you’re gonna hate it too.’
Tedros asks, ‘You hate it? How can you put out something you hate?’ and she says, ‘Well, you obviously don’t work in the music industry. Pop music is just… -Superficial.’
He says Prince would disagree with her, insisting that if When the Doves Cry came out today it would be a hit tomorrow.
‘Pop music is like the ultimate Trojan Horse. Ya get people to dance, Ya get people to sing along. Could say whatever you want. S**t’s powerful,’ Tedros says.
They both say they like each other and he says, ‘You got the best job in the world. Should be having way more fun.’
Jocelyn gets back home and starts masturbating with one hand and seemingly choking herself with the other.
The next day she speaks with Talia from Vanity Fair, who begins by telling her she finds her, ‘so impressive.’
‘The fact that that photo came out… And I can’t even imagine all the shame and humiliation you must’ve been feeling, but it didn’t derail you. The focus that must’ve taken. It’s like an Olympian. It’s extraordinary,’ Talia says.
Jocelyn says, ‘I’m sorry. Was there a question?’ when she says, ‘Did it hurt? That photo? The betrayal of it?’
‘Of course. But, I mean, what am I supposed to do?’ Jocelyn says, as Talia adds, ‘I don’t know. F**k up the guy that did it to you.’
‘I think it would be inspirational for young women and girls all around the world who have been targeted and humiliated in the way you were,’ Talia says.
Jocelyn adds, ‘Five years ago when people would tell me that it was important to comment on something publicly, I would buy into it. But now I just know that I’m being hustled.’
Talia adds, ‘Yeah, I mean, obviously, my editor is breathing down my neck, gun to my back, trying to get me to get you to talk about this photo. It’s all anyone can talk about.’
Jocelyn adds, ‘I get it. We all have to answer to somebody,’ and when Talia asks who she answers to, Jocelyn says, ‘God.’
Later Jocelyn is hanging out with her friend Talia, asking if she likes the new single and she says she does, adding, ‘It’s amazing.’
Jocelyn says, ‘I just feel like– I know it, like, works commercially, but I just feel like every time I listen to it, I’m, like, f***ing embarrassed.’
Talia adds, ‘Well, that’s because it’s different than anything you’ve ever done before. It’s like… Edgy, but, like, in a cool way. It’s really good.’
Talia tells Jocelyn that Tedros is here and Talia goes down to let him in, telling him he can ‘chill in the living room’ and make a drink if he wants.
‘Just make yourself at home,’ she adds, as he jokes, ‘You sure?’
He makes a drink and sits on the sofa for a bit before checking himself out in the full length mirror and doing a bump of cocaine.
He looks in the mirror and rehearses his ‘opening line’ to her – ‘Hello angel,’ before she comes down the stairs in her red dress.
‘Hello, angel,’ he tells her, and she asks if he calls all the girls that and he says, ‘just you.’
They start doing shots when Leila reminds her that she has to be up at 7 AM tomorrow.
Jocelyn tells Tedros that Leila is her best friend and assistant, asking him if he wants to hear her new song.
He asks, ‘Are you desperate to put this specific song out?’ and she says, ‘No, I’m not desperate to put anything out, my team is. ‘Cause everyone in my life is, like, telling me that it’s really great, but I don’t believe them.’
He asks, ‘Why?’ and she explains, ‘Cause when you’re famous, everyone lies to you.’
He asks if she trusts him and she says, ‘I just think you’re enough of an asshole that you might tell me the truth.’
She takes him downstairs and plays him the song but she stops it halfway because she thinks he hates it.
He says he can see, ‘why the label wants to put it out,’ and she says, ‘I don’t know. I feel like it’s, like, too superficial or something,’ and she doesn’t know if it’s, ‘like, honest.’
‘So, you’re not a freak? You could release “I’m a Nun” instead,’ he says, but she says she’s not a nun.
He adds, ‘Yeah. Well, I like it. It’s good, yeah. Just one minor note. I don’t believe you. If you’re gonna sing a song called “I’m a Freak”… You should at least sing it like you know how to f**k.’
She laughs and says, ‘What makes you think I don’t know how to fuck?’ and he says, ‘Your vocal performance.’
Jocelyn laughs and says, ‘Wow. F**k you. F**k you,’ but he asks, ‘Do you ever listen to Donna Summer? Love to Love You Baby? When she sings… There’s no doubt that she knows how to f**k.
He adds, ‘Yeah. You could hear it in her voice. You can feel it,’ and Jocelyn says, ‘But not with me?’
‘Not yet,’ he says cryptically, before asking if she sings sitting down, and she says yes as he tells her to stand up, removing the red sash from her dress.
‘You gotta stop Carin’ what people think. You are… Too… Locked up in your head. Yeah, you’re thinking too much. You need to block out the world,’ Tedros says.
He takes the sash and puts it over her head, giving her a kiss before asking, ‘Do you trust me?’
‘No,’ she says as he pulls the sash over her head and ties the belt around her neck as she struggles to breathe as he tells her, ‘Shhh.’
She keeps panting and struggling to breathe as he tells her, ‘Don’t be scared,’ as he pulls out a knife and tells her to open her mouth as she’s clearly terrified.
He tells her again to open her mouth as he uses the knife to cut a hole in the sash as her breath slows.
He rips the hole open more and tells her, ‘Now you can sing,’ as the series premiere comes to an end.
Jocelyn and Tedros: She meets up with the mysterious nightclub impresario Tedros (The Weeknd) to try and turn her career around in the sexually-charged series
After the Rolling Stone report was published, Depp defended creator Sam Levinson in a statement to E! News.
‘Sam is, for so many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued,’ she said.
‘Working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way — it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it.’
While Depp defended Levinson, she did reveal in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that she did tend to keep her distance with The Weeknd at times.
‘I don’t think anybody went full method – nobody lost their minds. Well, sometimes when Abel would get – I don’t want to reveal too much about where Abel’s character goes, but when he would be in full Tedros mode sometimes, I would steer clear of him, I’d be like, ”He’s in his zone right now,”‘ Depp admitted.
However, Lily-Rose praised the atmosphere on said, explaining: ‘For something that does, of course, explore darker themes and has some pretty heavy emotional moments to it and everything, the vibe on set was quite lighthearted.’
It comes after director and co-creator Sam Levinson addressed the show’s controversies at a news conference in Cannes.
‘We live in a very sexualize world,’ he said, ‘especially in the states, and I think the influence of pornography is really strong in terms of the psyche of, I think, young people in the states.
Defended: After the Rolling Stone report was published, Depp defended creator Sam Levinson in a statement to E! News
Cast: The series also stars Dan Levy (right), Jane Adams (left), Rachel Sernott, DaVine Joy Randolph, Hank Azaria, Elizabeth Berkley and the the Anne Heche in one of her final roles
‘We see this in pop music and how it sort of reflects the underbelly of the internet. I think it’s very true to what almost every pop star doing these days.’
Lily-Rose said she was involved in creating all the aspects of her character Joselyn, including the amount of nudity on the screen.
The six-episode series was created by Levinson, The Weeknd and Reza Fahim, with Levinson directing the episodes as well.
It remains to be seen if HBO will decide to renew The Idol for a second season after tonight’s series premiere.