What is The Idol about? HBO series explained

Kayla Harrington
Lily-Rose Depp and The Weeknd in The Idol

The Idol, HBO’s new drama series from The Weeknd and Sam Levinson has arrived – so, here’s what it’s about, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching.

Everyone thinks being a pop star is all glitz and glamour, but what happens when you pull back the glittery curtain to see the music industry’s ugly underbelly? Well, Max’s new show The Idol is ready to take fans on a wild ride to the darker side of Hollywood.

Created by Sam Levinson and Abel Tesfaye (also known as The Weeknd), The Idol has been branded as the grown up version of Euphoria, Levinson’s other glitter-covered, fever dream of a TV show. As the series has been plagued with scandals, it’s sure to be the most-talked-about show of the summer.

Here’s everything you need to know about The Idol, including its plot, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching.

What is The Idol about?

The Idol follows a young pop star who stumbles into the clutches of a charismatic cult leader after suffering from a nervous breakdown that made her fall from grace.

Check out the trailer below:

The official synopsis reads: “Jocelyn, an aspiring pop idol who, after having a nervous breakdown that causes her last tour to be canceled, resolves to reclaim her title as the sexiest pop star in America and begins a complex relationship with Tedros, a self-help guru and the head of a contemporary cult.”

With a plot like that, controversy was bound to find the show. And things really hit the fan when Rolling Stone published an article in which it alleged that sources who worked on the production called it a “sh*tshow.” They also alleged that changes to the series were made because Tesfaye felt it was heading too much into a “female perspective.”

The allegations didn’t stop there, as one source described Levinson’s script for the show as a “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.”

While both Levinson and Tesfaye have disputed these claims, calling them “untrue” and a total “misunderstanding,” the damage is done as most people think The Idol will be a total mess.

The Idol cast: Who’s in it?

The main cast of The Idol includes: 

  • Lily-Rose Depp as Jocelyn
  • Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye as Tedros
  • Troye Sivan as Xander
  • Jennie Ruby Jane as Dyanne
  • Moses Sumney as Izaak
  • Jane Adams as Nikki Katz
  • Dan Levy as Jocelyn’s publicist
  • Rachel Sennott as Leia
  • Hari Nef as a Vanity Fair writer
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Destiny
  • Hank Azaria as Chaim

Though Rose-Depp has acted before, this is her first leading role and, from the reviews coming out of Cannes, it might be her best work yet. Deadline called her performance “riveting,” giving her props for being able to work with the show’s highly sexualized scripts. And Yasmine Kandil, a senior film critic at DiscussingFilm, called Rose-Depp’s performance “the strongest to date.”

It’s incredibly impressive that Rose-Depp has made such an impact on audiences, as only two of The Idol’s six episodes were shown at Cannes Film Festival. It’s good to know that there will be great performances, even if everything else is hanging by a thread.

Is The Idol worth watching?

The Idol has a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Collider referred to Levinson’s approach to the show’s sex scenes as “underwhelming” and “bland,” adding that “there’s no substance behind his style.” And Variety harshly criticized the script written by Levinson, Tesfaye, and Reza Fahim, writing: “[It seems like it’s] calculated to fool audiences into thinking they’re observing how Hollywood operates, when so much of it amounts to tawdry clichés lifted from Sidney Sheldon novels and softcore porn.”

Whether you want to watch The Idol because of its scandalous history or because you’re a fan of Tesfaye, Rose-Depp, and Levinson, you’re sure to get a wild six episodes of television either way.

The Idol Episode 2 will be available to stream from June 11. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Kayla is a TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's huge fan of Marvel (especially if Wanda Maximoff is involved), shows that make you laugh then cry, and any cooking show found on the Food Network. Before Dexerto, she wrote for Mashable, BuzzFeed, and The Mary Sue. You can contact her at kayla.harrington@dexerto.com