The last time we heard any rumblings about The Idol—creator Sam Levinson’s upcoming HBO show, plagued with misfortune since its announcement—the show’s star, The Weeknd, was firing back at a Rolling Stone exposé about the production’s turmoil.
The Idol co-stars Lily-Rose Depp as the titular, monolithic pop diva, Jocelyn, whose burgeoning career is taken to teetering new heights when The Weeknd’s character enters her orbit. The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, plays an enigmatic but toxic producer/self-help guru named Tedros, who alienates Jocelyn from the rest of her team when he and the pop star get into a tumultuous relationship. Rolling Stone called the show “twisted torture porn,” detailing horrific, scripted scenes of sexual assault and domestic violence, which were reportedly later cut from the show’s final production.
After releasing more teaser trailers than any show or movie under the sun, The Idol has dropped its latest—and final—teaser, giving us a dramatic new look at what audiences were rallying against just a few weeks ago. And if you’re nostalgic for the chaos of 2007-era pop culture, hold onto your hat.
The teaser opens with Depp’s character sprawled out on a couch during a photo shoot, clad in a red silk robe, and smoking a cigarette. “When was the last truly fucking nasty, nasty, bad, pop girl?” asks co-star Troye Sivan’s character, whose role in the show is still under wraps.
Cue the instantly recognizable, hard-hitting bass synths of Britney Spears’ “Gimme More,” perhaps the defining song of late-aughts tabloid pop. The song is synonymous with paparazzi flashbulbs and censored upskirt shots of starlets, appearing in gossip rags the world over. It’s clear from the teaser that The Idol is trying to transport us back to a time when those things were (disgustingly) commonplace.
When Jocelyn meets Tedros in a club, he tells her that she has “the best job in the world” and that she should be having way more fun doing it. Cut to drugs, debauchery, and a damsel who seems to get off on her distress. While that clearly presents a big question mark for a show that was already heavily criticized for its portrayal of an abused pop star who’s an agent in her own mistreatment, The Idol seems prepared to inundate its viewers with shocking thrills nonetheless.
The show has a major supporting cast, including Jane Adams, Rachel Sennott, Dan Levy, Moses Sumney, Hari Nef, and Hank Azaria, to name only a few. As Jocelyn descends further into darkness, each one of The Idol’s stacked cast tries their hands at pulling her out. Sennott tries to justify a racy “selfie,” with Jocelyn on her knees with her tongue out, and later attempts to tell someone that Jocelyn’s a victim of Tedros’ relentless brainwashing.
But trying to rally against what the show classifies as the “leader of a modern cult” has consequences.
Brief shots of Sivan being electrocuted in a dog’s shock collar, high-speed car rides, push notifications of racy Jocelyn news, and plenty of drugs underscore The Idol’s own desire to be the next big, controversial television event. And it’s all in service of Jocelyn, who has no qualms about sacrificing it all for fame. “I want to be the biggest touring act ever,” she says, over shots of her spreading her legs, slapping her own ass, and emerging to a crowd of thousands.
As Spears’ glacially robotic voice repeats, “More, more, more,” that’s exactly what the teaser gives. There’s sure to be heaps of tawdry excess to look out for when The Idol premieres at the Cannes Film Festival next month, then to the rest of the world June 4 on HBO.