The Weeknd was in Dublin’s Marlay Park last week – not to check out the miniature railway but to treat a sell-out audience to an evening of chart-topping electro-soul. The Toronto-born, LA-based artist may also have enjoyed the opportunity to head overseas and escape the negative fallout from his apocalyptically dreadful TV series, The Idol (Sky Atlantic).
It’s a show that has plumbed dire depths not witnessed since the end of Game of Thrones. It stars The Weeknd, who conceived of the project with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, as a manipulative guru with god-like sexual powers that render him irresistible to men and women. Or, as the Weekend probably sees, he’s just playing himself.
In fact, as the manipulative Tedros, he’s a black hole of anti-charisma. But he’s pushed all the way for charmlessness as Lily-Rose Depp, aka burnt-out pop star Jocelyn (a cross between Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears). In the finale, their mission to fill the screen with dead energy gathers pace as Jocelyn tires of the controlling Tedros (The Weeknd) and threatens to eject him from her inner circle. He’s flabbergasted as her inner circle of hangers-on and would-be pop stars began life as his family of acolytes. His cult has now become her cult.
The Idol was supposed to run for six instalments, but last week the HBO network announced it would conclude after five. It’s hard not to suspect that much significance has ended on the cutting room floor. Episode four had ended with Jocelyn still more or less under the spell of Tedros (despite her learning that he’d engineered their first meeting in a nightclub). She was now going out of her way put him in his place and assert her pop star raw power.
The shift in their dynamic is abrupt and unconvincing. As is the show’s rush towards the finish line. The music Jocelyn has created with Tedros has turned her career around, and her “team” – a pond-scum of managers, agents and bookers – love it. The Idol from there cuts to the stadium where Jocelyn is due to perform that night: it’s several months later, and her new direction is a large success.
But just when she has turned over a new leaf, Tedros turns up, claiming he’s on the guest list. He is! Having appeared to reject her creepy mentor publicly, Jocelyn invites him on stage to plant her lips on his and tell the audience that she owes him everything.
There are some profoundly iffy relationship politics at work as this manipulator and gaslighter is welcomed back as a saviour. But the other problem is it’s all so dull and silly – about as much fun, in other words, as waiting for a bus after a gig. And it concludes with a lingering question. Who, The Weeknd aside, who could possibly have imagined this hollowed-out cringe fest was a good idea?