Breakdown and recap of The Idol season 1, episode 1: Pop Tarts and Rat Tales

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 23: Lily-Rose Depp attends "The Idol" photocall at the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 23, 2023 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 23: Lily-Rose Depp attends "The Idol" photocall at the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 23, 2023 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage) /

On the first episode of HBO’s drama series about modern fame The Idol, the pop star Jocelyn prepares a new track and dance number for her triumphant return. But a very saucy tweet has made its way to the public and threatens to overshadow the release of her new single.

Jocelyn is despondent until she meets the guru-like nightclub owner, Tedros, and begins to fall under his spell.

During a photo shoot at her mansion, the blonde bombshell pop star Jocelyn is trying out a range of emotions for the image that will accompany her forthcoming single, “World-Class Sinner” and possibly album cover. Her handlers are quite pleased, so far.

These include her record label producer Nikki Katz, her manager Chaim, her road manager Destiny, her personal assistant Leia, and her publicist Destiny.

The Idol season 1, episode 1 recap – Intimacy discord-ination

The single is very commercial and at the same time custom-tailored to be forgettably manufactured. It will make them a ton of money once all the marketing is pushed through and Joceyln will be 10 times more famous than before.

Friction arises when the on-site intimacy coordinator tells her she can’t do full frontals until they change her nudity rider. Chaim, the manager, solves this by locking up the guy in one of the bathrooms.

Meantime, a Vanity Fair reporter has arrived and is waiting for her interview. More trouble arises when a tweet makes its way to Jocelyn’s handlers.

It’s a leaked or hacked photo of her with cum all over her face. Looks like it was a selfie, too.

In no time the tweet goes viral, and they all conspire to keep it from the star while she finishes the photo shoot. It segues quickly to the rehearsal of the dance routine that will accompany the new single.

They couldn’t keep the tweet secret from Vanity Fair, though. Somewhere down the line, as the people in charge of her talk, we learn that Jocelyn’s last tour was cancelled because of a nervous breakdown.

Also, her mother only recently died.

The Idol season 1, episode 1 recap – Meeting Tedros

On top of the tweet, Live Nation’s representative Andrew (who is played very nicely by Eli Roth), who is handling the planned intercontinental tour for the album, has come to the mansion demanding to know how they will handle the tweet. Instead of a full meltdown, Joceyln has one of the mini crazy moments during rehearsal.

Only one of her main backup dancers Dyanne (played here by K-Pop royalty Jennie Ruby Jane aka Jennie Kim of Blackpink) rescues her from a complete mess, by speaking inspiring self-help maxims. Later that night, Jocelyn urges Dyanne to take her to the newest hip club.

They all go with Joceyln is having a good time, even to the point of having the club owner Tedros recognize her and ask for a dance. Tedros is played by real-life electronica and dance artist Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd.

As Tedros there’s no effort on his part to look smarmy and sleazy. Although the rat tail he wears certainly helps.

Jocelyn even comments on it and we get one of the more clever titles on HBO’s series roster. Jocelyn and Tedros hit it off.

They even make out heavily in a shadowy corridor next to a fire escape exit. The escalating quickie evaporates when Jocelyn’s assistant comes looking for her.

The Idol stars Lily Rose-Depp as embattled pop singer Jocelyn.
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 23: Lily-Rose Depp attends “The Idol” photocall at the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 23, 2023 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage) /

The Idol season 1, episode 1 recap – Authenticity issues

When she goes back home, Joceyln masturbates on the couch while choking herself. In the morning, much to her assistant’s chagrin, Joceyln invites Tedros over to her place on the pretense that he will help her with her singing.

Jocelyn even dresses up very provocatively to prepare for his arrives. She makes him wait and then invites him to her recording studio.

They start to flirt and kiss. Jocelyn airs her doubts about the “authenticity” of her music, doubts about her ability to sing, and also tells him about her mother and her emotional state in the wake of her death.

It’s at this time that Tedros, who is rumored to be a fairly guru-like charmer himself, puts on his manipulation routine and lightly cuts off Jocelyn’s air with a piece of the lingerie she’s wearing. As she struggles to breathe, Tedros uses his pocketknife to cut a hole.

When she recovers her breath, he tells her, “Now you can sing.”

The Idol season 1, episode 1 recap – World-class sinner?

For an hour-long episode full of breast exposure, masturbation, and all kinds of sexual activity and kinkery, hardly anything of much narrative import happens. There is rather a tired, nay exhausted, attempt at framing a lens at the Gen Z’s version of the “price of fame” theme, that doesn’t present much of anything fresh or creative.

The club was flashy and glitzy, and the rest of the episode played out the same except it elicits zero excitement. There were just two genuine moments in the whole episode for me and none of them include either Jocelyn or Tedros interacting.

Chaim, the manager, doing the bruising move of locking up the intimacy coordinator like old school rock and roll. Second was how main backup dancer Dyanne buoyed Jocelyn’s flagging spirits, when she was about to have a meltdown in the middle of the dance routine, when all her executives were breathing down her neck.

Seriously, co-creators Sam Levinson and Abel Tesfaye need to take a hard look at the highly expensive and extremely lackluster thing they’ve created. If this is the kind of sterile and fatigued, behind-the-fame storytelling that’s indicative of the rest of the series, then I don’t know why this “prestige” project is worth my time.

Or anyone’s.

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You can stream The Idol on Max.