Television Man | Aidan Morgan
“Whether you like it or not, you will grow apart from human beings. However, television is faithful and is always with you. For Television provides all things”.
—St. John of Basic Cable
Before the advent of streaming, the interseasonal June to September wasteland was a rocky place of reruns, movies-of-the-week and Battles of the Network Stars. Television critics were so starved for new material they often invented shows to maintain a living. Remember Chrysostomos!, the long-running sitcom about the resurrected fourth-century saint St. John of Chrysostom running a hardware store in Des Moines? I’ve got news for you: it never happened.
Now, however, we have shows running around the calendar, and TV critics no longer have to make up shows in a desperate bid to stay relevant. Or do they?
She’s A Slave 4 U. Or RU a Slave 2 HR? HOO is SLV 2 HOO N E WAY?
HBO (or is it just Max now?) is in a strange place. Now that Barryand Successionare finished, and the next reliable hit (Euphoria, House of the Dragon, The Last of Us) somewhere off on the horizon of 2024 or even ’25, the network feels at loose ends — unless you’re breathlessly waiting for another season of …And Just Like That.
Into this empty space, HBO has dropped The Idol, Sam Levinson’s (Euphoria) latest barrel of Internet chum. The production was originally helmed by Amy Siemetz (The Girlfriend Experience, She Dies Tomorrow), until the show was shut down and rebooted entirely, with Sam Levinson as showrunner.
I’m not entirely sure what to say about The Idol, except to suppose that Siemetz’ version was probably more interesting. Levinson mashes up a warmed-over Succession-style satire of the celebrity industrial complex with a sadomasochistic thriller (in case you missed that aspect, Basic Instinct is playing in the background of one scene). The opening shows some promise as a smirky, winking look at the apparatus that consumes the talent it’s meant to nurture, but as soon as the character of Tedros (producer and star Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, bravely sporting the worst hairstyle of the 21st century) appears, the episode drops down a dark pit into ’90s erotic thriller mode.
I’m sure that Levinson and Tesfaye believe they’ve made a great and edgy piece of meta-commentary on the state of celebrity and the nature of art, but the premiere episode is best enjoyed as a bit of trashy provocation. It’s the sort of thing that would have vanished into the direct-to-video well 30 years ago, but now postures as prestige TV.
I Think You Should Watch
Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting at home, scrolling through YouTube videos of rescue cats befriending hedgehogs, when an ad for season three of I Think You Should Leave, Tim Robinson’s deranged Netflix sketch comedy series, pops up, and you’re thinking How did I not know about this? and I should call the President at the same time, but you get confused and end up calling Galen Weston and he starts screaming at you and then the Superstore cops show up and start jumping up and down on your new patio furniture and you’re like Hey cut it out I just bought that new patio furniture but they don’t care and when they leave you’ve got a big pile of junk on your patio where your nice new furniture used to be? Has this ever happened to you?
Probably it has. You should watch season three of I Think You Should Leave. Six episodes, 15 minutes each. You could order some new patio furniture while you watch. ■