Why HBO’s The Idol Is So Fascinatingly Bad

In this episode of the Pitchfork Review podcast, our critics discuss the near-hits and wild misses of the controversial pop-star drama starring the Weeknd and Lily-Rose Depp.
LilyRose Depp and the Weeknd in The Idol
Photo by Eddy Chen/HBO

Our weekly podcast includes in-depth analysis of the music we find extraordinary, exciting, and just plain terrible, alongside the culture around that music. This week Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel and Reviews Director Jeremy D. Larson host Features Editor Ryan Dombal to talk about the confounding failure that is HBO’s The Idol. Does its depiction of modern pop stardom ring true? What is the show ultimately trying to say? And what’s going on with the Weeknd’s instantly infamous rat-tail?!

Listen to this week’s episode below, and follow The Pitchfork Review here. You can also check out an excerpt of the podcast’s transcript below.

Puja Patel: Do you feel like how the Weeknd chose to play his character on the show reveals anything about who he is or what he’s trying to be as the Weeknd?

Ryan Dombal: So listen, my favorite part of the show was the Weeknd.

Patel: [laughs] That’s insane.

Dombal: And I know there are a lot of memes about how he gave the worst acting performance people have ever seen, but his character made me laugh the most by far. The character is obviously despicable and disgusting, but I think he’s in on the joke: He does everything in his power to make the character grosser, from his hair to his outfits.

Patel: The hair is a rat-tail for those who haven’t seen it yet…

Jeremy D. Larson: …which is referenced constantly in the show.

Dombal: He seemed very proud of that choice! There’s one episode where he’s just sweating profusely throughout the entire thing, and his hair is fanning out, and he looks like utter shit, and I thought it was cool that he made himself look so ugly. I like the Weeknd’s music when it’s over-the-top and goofy, so I might be one of the few people who likes him equally, if not a little bit more, after watching this show.