The Idol: the worst TV show of the year?

Critics have panned “The Idol” as “the worst TV show of the year” following its finale.

Sam Levinson, the creator of the HBO drama about a troubled pop singer and her thorny relationship with a cult leader, had predicted that “The Idol” would be “the biggest show of the summer”.

However, many critics saw it quite differently. They have damned it as a “confusing mess”, “grossly oversimplified”, and a “painfully tedious TV non-event” that “maintained a consistent awfulness throughout”.

‘Toe-curlingly naff’

Awarding it just one star out of five, The Telegraph declared it “the worst TV show of the year”. Ed Power wrote that the “toe-curlingly naff” series was a “potential turkey for the ages”. He described Lily-Rose Depp, who played the wannabe pop star, as “vacant”, while Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, was “atrociously stilted” as the self-help guru.

The Guardian was harsher still. Leila Latif said it was “one of the worst programmes ever made” with “the dampest squib of a finale”. Tesfaye’s performance, said Latif, “should be tried at The Hague”.

The problems with the series “aren’t limited to its gratuitous nudity or juvenile eroticism”, wrote Lovia Gyarkye in The Hollywood Reporter, as it is also “dogged by a thin plot and an incoherent narrative”, with storylines “blithely picked up and discarded”.

There has also been criticism of the series within its own camp. “Even those who worked on the show have panned it”, noted Rolling Stone, with production sources describing it as “shockingly boring” and “worse than I thought it’d be”.

‘Gorgeous looking’

However, wrote Chris Vognar for the same magazine, HBO “has had worse mishaps” and the finale was “neither a bang nor a whimper” but simply “not quite as bad as what preceded it”.

There was also faint praise from Laura Martin in Esquire, who wrote that “some viewers are still convinced” that “somewhere, within the dark, grubby crevices of ‘The Idol’, there was, at one point, a decent series in there”.

More full-hearted praise came from Douglas Greenwood in Vogue, who wrote that the “gorgeous-looking horror show” was “buzzy, brazen television that will do exactly what it set out to do: get people talking”.

Are the detractors being too prudish? “Morally dubious art can be great”, wrote Barry Pierce for i-D in an article hooked to the series. “Sleazy art has an important place in our culture,” he added, so “to treat it as morally indefensible or unworthy of your time or support is to fundamentally misunderstand what art is.”

Perhaps the boldest praise and criticisms were both too strong, argued Alison Herman for Variety. “In the end”, she wrote, the series was “neither as offensive as its detractors claimed” nor as “revolutionary” as Levinson believed.