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Why So Many Think The Idol And The Weeknd’s Tedros Suck

The Idol has not been great so far. The buzziest series of the summer has been a bizarre mishmash of torture porn, icky sex scenes, and watered-down storytelling. How could HBO go so wrong with their auteur Sam Levinson, the man behind Euphoria, The Weeknd playing a sex cultist, and Johnny Depp’s daughter playing a Britney Spears-esque character? They went wrong because Levinson is rumored to be problematic on sets, the script is only clever when writing for everyone but the two leads, and The Weeknd doesn’t know how to act.

Despite how bad things have been so far, we are all still watching. We all will still watch because, like the pop star it so badly wants us to think of, The Idol is a beautiful train wreck. Ancillary characters relegated to the back seat are great, and their camera time almost salvages the catastrophe that is the rest. Jocelyn’s(Lily-Rose Depp) team is almost exclusively terrible people, but they are fun to watch. They are in the business of making, promoting, and exploiting stars. Knowing all of that, they are the most authentic part of The Idol. Jocelyn’s managers, label execs, and publicists are quick-witted and fast-talking. They sling barbs at each other and us that are cutting enough to sting but not sharp enough to make us bleed. They are great. Unfortunately, that isn’t true of the two leads.

It’s like Levinson watched Mad Men and decided the most distinguishing thing about the series was they were all chain smokers. Smoking is not a character trait, yet little else could be said about Depp’s Jocelyn. She is deeply insecure, stares into space, dances provocatively, and smokes a lot. Beyond that, she has no substance. Levinson underwrites her to such a degree she is a ghost. When the reporter from Vanity Fair questions her about her mother in Episode 1, I wanted fire or ice, or both. Instead, I got a half-melted snowcone and a barely brown marshmallow. Neither was satisfying. Simultaneously, Tedros, the supposed svengali of sexuality, is overwritten almost with a vengeance.

The Idol
Courtesy of HBO

I can’t decide if The Weeknd has been fooling us this whole time or if The Idol was just the perfect storm of horribleness. I used to think The Weeknd was smoking hot. After watching the first two episodes of The Idol, I no longer feel that way. What happened? Is he the sexy music star that bravely makes Avante Garde choices, or is he Tedros, the not believable cult leader? I’m becoming alarmingly convinced Abel Tesfaye is Tedros, which is a significant problem. It also helps explain why all the sex scenes wreak of adolescent boy fantasy.

Amy Seimetz, who developed and directed The Idol before she was infamously let go, is a gifted creator that was rumored to be fired after the network and Tesfaye deemed her direction to be too female gazey. There’s a reason women are so drawn to Britney Spears’ story. The mother, sister, and bestie in us desperately want to #SaveBritney. There is also a tiny part of us we push down so far we hope she never sneaks out that is morbidly drawn to her pain.

If The Idol had tapped those dueling emotions, the series would have been much better. Jocelyn would have been a tragic character, a cautionary tale, and an indictment of our role in the ruination of a young life. Instead, it’s a thinly veiled soft corn porn starring a wooden The Weeknd as his alter ego, a dorky incel who convinces himself he is God’s gift from the safety of his Mom’s basement.

The story shouldn’t be about Abel Tesfaye’s Tedros, and if it is, he’s got to be so profoundly captivating we don’t mind that he’s an alarm bell-ringing red flag of a dude. Think more Christian Gray and less all those bros who read the ridiculously named Mystery’s self-help dating books in the mid-oughts. Tedros, in fact, could be one of the rejected contestants of his show from 2007, The Pick Up Artist. He’s so laughable he couldn’t even be the ludicrous hat and scarf-wearing host.

Maybe Tesfaye’s ego prevented him from seeing that a character like Tedros needs to ooze sexuality, magnetism, and charm. The only thing Tedros oozes is maybe the lingering scent of the Big Mac Combo meal he ate on the way to your house despite telling everyone he is vegan. Tesfaye has said he conceived of this story because he believed his star power was so strong he could start a cult if he chose to. Sorry to burst your bubble, but unless you’ve got more game than what we see in The Idol, you’re lucky to be dating at all. There’s a big difference between getting women to sleep with you and holding down a group for an extended period of time.

The biggest problem with The Idol is there is none of the sizzle we were promised. For a series reshot to infuse it with sex appeal(re: a man’s idea of sex appeal), there is no appeal and only weird sex. Levinson and Tesfaye should have spent more time watching anything from Zalman King in the ’80s if you wanted to tell the story of a damaged woman taken advantage of by an equally damaged but hot guy. Yes, Wild Orchid and 9 1/2 Weeks set women’s sexual liberation back, but at least Mickey Rourke was HOT in his day.

I’m not a prude. I don’t mind a little kink with my sexy time, but Tedros’ strange breath play, and slimy dirty talk is laughable. There’s no build-up. No foreplay. He goes from practicing lines in the mirror to choking her out in half a second. Most women aren’t going to swoon the second any rando asks us to bend over. Even the most insecure and desperate of us aren’t that easy, and if we are going to make things that easy for you, it’s because you are so undeniably sexy we can’t help ourselves. Tedros is not that, full stop. At the very least, be a value add to the night.

Not only is The Idol problematic with their sex doll rendering of Jocelyn, but every interaction between the vulnerable pop star and the rat tail-sporting slimeball is gross. We probably won’t ever see the footage that Amy Seimetz shot. That’s too bad. I can’t help but wish we got her vision of this story. A Seimetz-cut someday would be interesting. Maybe Tedros wouldn’t be so wooden. Perhaps Jocelyn would have displayed more fragility and less vacant expected cliches.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I wanted something that felt dirty and unnerving. I admittedly wanted to be part of the problem. By firing Seimetz and revamping everything, I can’t help but think HBO dropped the ball. Does The Idol suck? I wouldn’t go that far. Everyone around the core two are great. There are four episodes left in Season 1. Let’s hope The Idol can find its footing. Regardless, it is still the most talked-about series and probably the most watched of the summer. I’d say begrudgingly that’s a win.