The Idol Wasn’t a Disaster … It Was a Mess

Savvy satire? Sincere psychodrama? Intentional pop culture lightning rod? What was HBO going for with the much-maligned series The Idol?

Mike Dean, Moses Sumney, Suzanna Son, Ramsey, Mitch Modes, Troye Sivan on The Idol season 1 finale.
Photo: Eddy Chen | HBO

This article contains spoilers for all episodes of The Idol.

The Idol was dead long before it ever even took the stage.

On March 1, 2023, more than three months prior to The Idol‘s June 4 premiere, Rolling Stone published a sordid expose on the behind-the-scenes troubles of the HBO show. With a headline proclaiming “The Idol: How HBO’s Next ‘Euphoria’ Became Twisted ‘Torture Porn,’” Cheyenne Roundtree’s excellent, thoroughly-researched feature reported how production on the show had gotten out of hand.

After original co-showrunner Amy Seimetz left the project due to “creative differences” (which apparently included frustration with producer and star Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye’s limited availability), HBO had roughly 75-80% of a finished show that no one was happy with. So they essentially started from scratch with Tesfaye and co-producer/Euphoria creator Sam Levinson in expanded creative roles, ballooning the project’s budget and taking it sharply off track from its initial conception.


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