The Idol, HBO's controversial drama starring Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp, is ending one week earlier than originally planned, Yahoo Entertainment has confirmed. The network hasn't commented, but a source close to the situation explains that after Euphoria's Sam Levinson "took over and made significant changes," the story only required five episodes. HBO initially picked up the show, co-created by Tesfaye and Levinson, as a six-episode series.
One group happy about the shortened season is the Parents Television and Media Council. In a statement on Monday, the organization called on HBO to cancel the show entirely "given the program's extreme content — nudity, sexual abuse, torture — that can be harmful to young viewers."
The Idol has been marred by drama, both on- and off-screen.
Reports of trouble first surfaced in April 2022 when Deadline reported the nearly completed show was set to undergo a creative overhaul. Original director Amy Seimetz was one of those who exited. One source claimed Tesfaye was unhappy that the series was leaning too much into a female perspective, something he he later denied. Levinson ultimately took over as director and even moved into the "Starboy" singer's mansion.
In March, Rolling Stone published an exposé labeling Levinson's version as sexual "torture porn." A dozen members of the cast and crew participated in the report and called the rebooted set a "s***show" and claimed the content was disturbing. When The Idol premiered in Cannes almost three months later, critics largely agreed.
After the second episode aired, British GQ declared The Idol "just gave us the worst sex scene in history." Esquire called Sunday's torture scene "a new low" and The Daily Beast proclaimed the episode "the worst one yet." Audiences seem to agree on one thing: some of the scenes with Depp start out promising, but when Tesfaye enters, things get very cringey. However, the superstar has maintained in various interviews amid the criticism that's all on purpose. ("This is just make-believe," he told Variety. "It's make-believe!")
Although Page Six reported The Idol would not be renewed for a second season, HBO denied that in a rare, public statement.
"It is being misreported that a decision on a second season of The Idol has been determined. It has not, and we look forward to sharing the next episode with you Sunday night," a tweet read last week.
It is being misreported that a decision on a second season of The Idol has been determined. It has not, and we look forward to sharing the next episode with you Sunday night.
— HBO PR (@HBOPR) June 15, 2023
The final episode of The Idol airs on Sunday, July 2 on HBO and Max.