A famous woman, trying to launch a comeback at a messy moment in her career, has nude photos leaked. Pretty good inciting incident for a TV show, right? I agree. So does Sam Levinson, who used it as a key plot point in the first episode of The Idol, in which the members of the entourage around Lily Rose-Depp’s pop star Jocelyn discover that a photo of her with cum on her face has made it online and then spend their time hiding the news of that from her and debating the context of the image — like, for instance, is it bukkake if it’s only one person’s cum? (I’m with Rachel Sennott: It is not.) Those scenes are some of the most engaging in the Idol premiere. They’re darkly funny and they have the added benefit of including none of the boring discussions of sex that later happen between Rose-Depp and the Weeknd. But they’re also pretty familiar. If you close The Idol on your Max app, open up your search bar, and head over to another series, you’ll find a much better rendering of a similar concept. Why not just watch I Hate Suzie?
In that series, created by Billie Piper and Succession EP Lucy Prebble, Piper plays a child-star singer turned actress who, in the pilot, discovers that photos of her having sex with a man who is not her husband have leaked online. The resulting spiral — Piper’s in the middle of a photo shoot, much like Rose-Depp’s character, and she’s also trying to book a role in a Disney film — gets out of control quickly. First she claims they’re not real, then tries to defend herself, then ends up alienating her husband. Some of this happens, hilariously, at a sci-fi convention. The show’s eight-episode first season is an incredible sustained panic attack (I mean this in a good way; if you liked Succession, you will enjoy it) with more insight into what it means to be a celebrity in the current moment than any other show on TV, some killer jokes about codependent relationships, and musical numbers much more engaging than Jocelyn sleepwalking through her dance rehearsal. Then you can go watch the three-episode second season, in which Piper’s character tries to return to the public sphere by entering a version of Strictly Come Dancing. Congrats to you.
To be clear, I don’t imagine that Levinson is trying to rip off I Hate Suzie. Both shows are clearly inspired by common real-life models, including hacked nude photos of celebrities ending up on Reddit and the career of Britney Spears, and it’s worth having many different takes on the broken state of musical celebrity (have you watched The Other Two?). I’m just saying that if I had to choose between what I’ve seen of The Idol and what I’ve seen of I Hate Suzie, I’d tell you to watch I Hate Suzie. Or keep watching The Idol if you like but then also start watching I Hate Suzie. In fact, even if you aren’t watching The Idol, you should be watching I Hate Suzie. Hand me your remote. I’m turning off your Zelda game right now. Let’s get on it.