On Sunday night, The Idol viewers were left confused when the preview for this weekend’s episode billed it as the “season finale.”
When the HBO show was first announced, it was slated to be a six-episode series. However, it is now ending after just five installments.
It didn’t take long for the rumor mill to go into overdrive, with people flocking to social media to theorize that The Idol was ending prematurely due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction that it has received.
The show has been courting controversy ever since its first trailer premiered almost a year ago, which advertised it as being “from the Gutters of Hollywood” and by “the sick & twisted minds” of Euphoria’s Sam Levinson, and The Weeknd — real name Abel Tesfaye.
In March, the series drew heavy criticism when Rolling Stone published an exposé that detailed a tumultuous creative process and problematic rewrites that led to the project being described as “sexual torture porn.”
And when The Idol premiered in Cannes last month, the critical response fueled the salacious and controversial perception of the show — which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why viewers were left disappointed by how underwhelming and lackluster it was when it finally hit our screens on June 4.
The general consensus was that The Idol is “cringe” and “boring,” earning it a 1.5/5 score on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.
The public response got even worse after Episode 2, which included an uncomfortable scene that showed The Weeknd’s character Tedros talking dirty to Lily-Rose Depp’s Jocelyn as she masturbated in front of him before they had sex.
The moment was brutally dragged online, with specific criticism of The Weeknd’s performance. British GQ even branded it “the Worst Sex Scene in History” in an article that asked “has anyone involved in this show ever had sex?”
The piece went on to roast The Weeknd’s acting choices, claiming that Tedros has “all the energy and sexual enticement of Gollum scurrying for a fish.”
So it’s perhaps understandable that when the news broke that The Idol is “ending one week early,” many were convinced that it was because of the relentless criticism.
“Bahahaha it's performing so badly that they're editing the last two episodes down into one (I assume),” one person tweeted in response to the news. Another wrote: “The Idol was supposed to be 6 episodes but they cancelled it after 5 episodes?”
Someone else theorized: “Apparently, 6 episodes have reduced to 5. If so, that means the ending would be so poorly received they’ve re-cut so harshly they’ve an episode less.”
But despite The Idol receiving a six-episode order in November 2021 — and six episodes being near completion last spring — the show was actually listed as a five-episode series when it went to Cannes.
In addition, The Weeknd referred to the show as a “a five-hour film” during an interview with GQ earlier this month, suggesting that there were only ever going to be five hour-long episodes that made it to air.
As for what actually happened to that lost sixth episode, sources have claimed that it was sacrificed when the show’s original director, Amy Seimetz, suddenly exited the project last April.
According to Rolling Stone, “roughly 80 percent of the six-episode series” was finished when she left. HBO offered little explanation as to Amy’s departure at the time, but they said that The Idol was undergoing a major creative overhaul with cast and crew adjustments.
It was later claimed that The Weeknd, who also serves as co-creator, believed that Amy’s vision for The Idol was “leaning too much into a ‘female perspective.’”
Rolling Stone also reported that Sam scrapped almost all of the completed work on the $54-75 million project when he took over as director, which drastically delayed its release. These rewrites and reshoots put the project over budget, which may be why an episode was culled in the process.
This has been corroborated by a source who addressed the episode confusion with TVLine on Monday. They told the publication: “The season ended up being five episodes when it was all said and done after Sam took over and made significant changes. The story only ended up requiring five.”
He also distanced himself from his character — whom he called “pathetic” and “such a loser” — in an interview with GQ, and said that there was never meant to be anything “sexy” about the widely-ridiculed Episode 2 sex scene.
The Weeknd went on to say: “The only way I could play this role was if it’s something completely different from who I am. And I can distance myself from that character. I wanted to make sure he looked nothing like me, acted nothing like me, just a totally different person.”
The star has also been publicly lashing out at people’s negative comments about The Idol on social media. Last week, someone tweeted “who has the thread or article on why the idol is bad pls i need it,” and The Weeknd retweeted them and sarcastically added: “‘someone hurry please tell me why I hate something everyone is telling me to hate … hurry before I come up with my own opinion.’”
And when someone else said that they were going to block him because they couldn’t stand the way he constantly talks about the “mid ass show,” The Weeknd replied: “hurry up than you taking too long.”