All the Controversy Surrounding HBO’s “The Idol,” Explained


HBO’s “The Idol” made headlines for months ahead of its June 4 premiere but not for good reasons. Ever since reports hinted at trouble behind the scenes early last year – the exit of a director and cast member and major reshoots at a new location – buzz surrounding the new show has been more angst than excitement.

“The Idol” – which stars Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Lily-Rose Depp, Dan Levy, Blackpink’s Jennie Kim, Rachel Sennott, Hari Nef, Hank Azaria, Jane Adams, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph – follows the dark, seemingly real-life-inspired story of a famous singer who, “determined to claim her rightful status as the greatest and sexiest pop star in America,” has her passions reignited by a nightclub owner/cult leader with a sordid past, per the show’s description. It was created by Tesfaye, “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, and Reza Fahim.

Leading up to “The Idol”‘s debut, many had no idea what else the show could entail. That is until crew members and sources close to “The Idol”‘s production spoke to Rolling Stone for a March exposé piece that uncovered allegations of a toxic work environment, the series’ violent and disturbing nature, and a complete flip on the show’s original vision.

In spite of these claims, the “Idol” cast themselves haven’t spoken out against the series. In fact, they’ve sung its praises in interviews with POPSUGAR. Randolph told us that the show is “an authentic, fly-on-the-wall, observational, almost reality-show-esque look into the behind-the-scenes of what it takes for a talent to fulfill their dreams and how many people and things can come in the way.” She added, “You see this kind of unorthodox, dysfunctional family of her team that is trying to make her dreams happen, and there are successes and losses.”

Despite reviews that criticized “The Idol”‘s sexually explicit subject matter – some of which have said that it degrades its central female character – Randolph said, in her opinion, the show is about “female empowerment at the core and a woman’s choice.”

Similarly, Adams told us of the show, “Here’s somebody just telling a story, and they don’t care what people think or what is the right word or theme. It just is what it is.” Adams also said she hopes “The Idol” “will help embolden [viewers] to go into their life the next day after they see it and make bolder choices and not care so much and have some more fun.”

With all the mixed reactions from “The Idol”‘s cast, crew, and early viewers, it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the show went wrong before it even aired. Ahead, read a full breakdown of all the drama surrounding the HBO series.

Related: Da’Vine Joy Randolph Says There Have Been “No Official Talks” of “The Idol” Season 2

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