The Idol has been greeted with a less-than-desirable response after its premiere at Cannes Film Festival.
Tesfaye, most commonly known by his musician stage name The Weeknd, plays the alluring but fearsome leader, Tedros.
After its first screening on Monday (22 May), The Idol received a five-minute standing ovation from the audience.
Despite the applause indicating widespread approval, less than a day later, the programme has an average score of only 10 per cent on the popular review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Earlier in the day, The Idol had a 20 per cent ‘Tomatometer’ rating on the platform, indicating an additional decline.
Soon after the screening, some reviews condemned the show as “shameful” and likened it to pornography.
For months ahead of its scheduled launch in June, The Idol has been subject to much discussion and controversy. As well as the project having to undergo extensive reshoots, a Rolling Stone investigation in March cited 13 unnamed sources from the production, who describe chaotic set conditions and sex scenes that made them uncomfortable.
At a Cannes press conference, Levinson defended the use of nudity in the show by deeming its inclusion a “revolutionary” act.
“We live in a very sexualised world. Especially in the States, the influence of pornography is strong in the psyche of young people. We see this in pop music,” he said.
“When you have a character who has a strong sense of self and a strong sexual self, you end up underestimating her.”
Clearly optimistic about the reception of the show, Levinson also quipped: “I think we’re about to have the biggest show of the summer.”
The Idol starts on 4 June on HBO in the US and on Sky Atlantic in the UK.
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