The Tease of Controversy: Why I’m Waiting With Bated Breath for ‘The Idol’ to Premiere

Hello, ‘tis me, the queen of messiness, and I’m here to let you know that if you have a new series you’d like me to watch, the best way to get my eyeballs on it is to make sure the show almost doesn’t finish production and is fraught with controversial press.

If you’ve been following the Hollywood news cycle over the past year, you would, of course, know that I am referring to The Idol, a raucous romp produced by Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) and Sam Levinson (Euphoria showrunner) about the trappings of the music industry as told through the lens of a nightclub owner and a budding pop star. 

On paper, The Idol has all the makings of a bonafide hit amongst the Gen Z cohort. You’ve got a cast jam-packed with stars like Lily-Rose Depp, Tesfaye in the lead role, Australian singer Troye Sivan, and Jennie Kim of Blackpink fame. You’ve also got Levinson at the helm and the lure of lifting the lid on the seedy underworld of the entertainment industry. All of that combined is enough to consider my interest piqued and ready to watch when the curtains open.

But then there’s the controversy. My god, the controversy.

Rolling Stone published a scathing exposè which gave detailed accounts from 13 crew members who spoke to the janky experience of working on set. Amongst the claims was the show’s alleged stark departure from being a feminist take on how the music industry treats women into something a lot more sinister.

Apparently, this shift occurred when showrunner Amy Seimetz left the project before Tesfaye and Levinson took over. One crew member was quoted as saying the show “was like any rape fantasy that any toxic man would have in the show — and then the woman comes back for more because it makes her music better.” Huge, yikes.

There’s also the matter of money. When the series was at around 80%, there had been a spend of somewhere in the vicinity of AUD$90 million, with a truckload of script rewrites and reshoots still required to get the production back on track. But it would appear that Levinson is HBO’s golden goose, so to speak, after the incredible success of Euphoria. I can’t imagine his production budgets are going to dry up any time soon. 

Despite the negative traction the Rolling Stone article garnered, it seems Tesfaye is sticking to his creative vision with rumours running hot that they’ve nabbed a premiere spot at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Variety reports they are currently having discussions about how the rollout might happen at the glamorous European festival.

So, with claims of toxic workplace conditions and a potentially problematic lens for their main storyline, is the hype around this show enough to push it to Euphoria-levels of success? They say any publicity is good publicity and there has been plenty of coverage on The Idol regardless of it being less than favourable. But therein lies the art of modern publicity: create something people will talk about and they will come in droves to watch it.

The tease of controversy has ensured I’ll be tuning in, although the jury is still out on whether The Idol has the goods to garner audience longevity.

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