Zendeya's new series, Euphoria has undoubtedly turned out to be the talk-of-the-town but one wouldn't mind if its positive or negative until the latter starts taking over. The show has met with critical acclaim but has also invited controversy for overtly showing graphic nudity, violence and drug use among young people.
According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, On June 16, casual TV surfers (and AT&T executives) might be surprised if they check out what's on the company's HBO channel: an erect penis. It's just one of many jarring elements of Euphoria, the new teen drama that offers perhaps the most unflinching, not to mention explicit, take on modern adolescence ever to hit U.S. television.
The male genitalia in the pilot is not attached to any of the largely 20-something cast. Instead, it's care of actor Eric Dane, who commits statutory rape with a 17-year-old trans girl (newcomer Hunter Schafer, 20). Though the sequence uses a prosthetic, it's still likely to shock most audiences — as will a handful of other graphic scenes in the pilot, from a gut-wrenching drug overdose by star Zendaya, 22, to a sex scene between teens involving choking. In one episode alone, close to 30 penises flash onscreen.
"There are going to be parents who are going to be totally fucking freaked out," says Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, 34, son of director Barry Levinson, who wrote all eight episodes based on his own past struggles with addiction. It is for these and other reasons that former HBO chairman Richard Plepler would often tell people the series makes Netflix's teen suicide drama 13 Reasons Why look like an after-school special. "It's a good insight into how hard it is to grow up in this time," says castmember Maude Apatow, 21, who's hoping her parents, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, watch the Drake-produced series. Adds HBO programming president Casey Bloys: "We're not trying to put out a Gossip Girl."
The show arrives with business implications as well. Amid the #MeToo movement and a re-evaluation of sexual mores and politics in the digital age, HBO is attempting to create buzz among a newer generation when so much of the 500-plus-show universe is lost on young people. The premium programmer's mandate under new parent AT&T is to ramp up content to compete with streaming rivals; that the network is doing so in the YA space is no surprise given the success of the genre on digital platforms, particularly Netflix.