Neil Young once said, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” and that’s certainly what happened with The Idol, which HBO officially canceled on August 28 after one widely discussed but critically maligned season. Sam Levinson and Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s music industry drama starred Lily-Rose Depp as rising pop star Jocelyn and Tesfaye himself as a mysterious cult leader named Tedros, along with an impressive supporting cast including Rachel Sennott, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Troye Sivan, ultimately running for just five episodes.
“The Idol was one of HBO’s most provocative original programs, and we’re pleased by the strong audience response,” HBO said in a statement. “After much thought and consideration, HBO, as well as the creators and producers have decided not to move forward with a second season. We’re grateful to the creators, cast, and crew for their incredible work.”
In June, HBO stated that the show could be renewed for a second season, disputing a Page Six report that the show would not return to TV. But that always seemed like an unlikely proposition given the lukewarm reception to the show’s highly explicit material and the behind-the-scenes dysfunction that hampered its production. The Idol was originally set to be directed by indie auteur Amy Seimetz, who completed most of shooting before she left the project and was replaced by Levinson himself as the series underwent a major creative overhaul. Even down to the release of its finale on July 2, there was much confusion among fans about whether five or six episodes would be airing. At times, it was unclear whether The Idol was meant to be a limited series or one that could run for multiple years.
The show’s sex scenes stirred much of the debate, with viewers debating the relative un-sexiness of the scenes between Tedros and Jocelyn; Tesfaye told GQ the dynamic was meant to be off-putting. The first season finale saw the season’s power dynamic flipped on its head as Jocelyn asserted control over Tedros, with the latter’s life and career in shambles. But even that attempt at subversion was heavily criticized, with The New York Times writing that it was never clear what The Weeknd and Levinson wanted to accomplish: “After all of this, I still don’t know what drives Jocelyn and Tedros. Music, I guess? But I have trouble believing even they care all that much.”
Presumably, The Idol’s cancellation means Levinson will shift his focus to Euphoria’s third season, which has been the subject of much speculation, especially with Levinson’s recent comments that it would be a “film noir.” Depp is due to appear in Robert Eggers’ upcoming horror flick Nosferatu, while The Weeknd has hinted that he’s at work on the follow-up to 2022’s acclaimed LP Dawn FM. At least we’ll always have “World Class Sinner,” an unlikely contender for song of the summer.