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Succession is the show everyone is talking about at the moment: the hit HBO series is currently number 32 on IMDB’s Most Popular TV chart, has an 82% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been hailed as everything from “my favourite show of the summer… the only thing I’ve been able to think about” by Vox to “King Lear for the modern media age” by The Telegraph.
At first glance, Succession seems to be about a father-son struggle for power between patriarch Logan Roy (Emmy winner Brian Cox from War & Peace) and his son Kendall (Jeremy Strong from The Big Short) over one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world.
But the dark horses in the race include Marcia, Logan’s third wife, played by Israeli actress Hiam Abbas (Blade Runner 2049, The Visitor) and Siobhan ‘Shiv’ Roy (Sarah Snook from Steve Jobs), Logan’s only daughter and youngest child.
Director and executive producer Mark Mylod, whose name you might recognise from another show about families fighting for power, Game of Thrones, warns, “Appearances are deceptive. It seems to be this patriarchal family and yet when you dig under the surface, Marcia may well be calling the shots more than anyone imagined.”
Similarly, Shiv initially seems to be out of the running, having rather pursued a career in politics. Creator Jesse Armstrong says, “Shiv is the child who has the greatest sense of herself in the family. They’re all battling with this name that crushes them and she’s the one who’s tried to live outside of it.”
But don’t rule her out. As Snook says, “I think Shiv in her own mind is probably the best one to run the company.”
In November, Forbes reported that a study had found that America’s three richest individuals – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos – collectively have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the population there – 160 million people in 63 million households.
Succession is a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of people that rich and famous – where kids are offered a million dollars to hit a home run, where destination weddings are held in picturesque castles. “This is the 1% that we talk about,” says Natalie Gold (The Leftovers), who plays Rava Roy, married to but separated from Kendall.
If you’re worried about being able to relate to the first world problems of rich kids waiting to inherit billions, writer Lucy Prebbles points out, “They are unique in their position in American culture but they’re also incredibly relatable, because Succession is very accurate about the way in which family dynamics play out. Fundamentally, you warm to them and sympathise with them at the same time as being repulsed.”
Sadly, challenging fathers exist across LSM segments; we all know someone who can relate to Kieran Culkin talking about how his character, Roman, feels judged by his dad and is “always looking for that approval that you’re just never going to get from him.” Or who can identify with Snook, when she says Shiv’s “dad has this fear of not being in control.”
Despite the omnipresent opulence, envy is not going to be anyone’s predominant emotion while watching the Roy family. “Succession is a pretty hard look at what the family dynamic is when there’s a lot of power and a lot of money involved,” says Snook. “The ones that have the most money, in terms of happiness, in terms of the things that really do matter, that is compromised by their successes.”
But Succession is more fun than that sounds – Will Ferrell is an executive producer, his longtime collaborator Adam McKay directs the pilot, showrunner Jesse Armstrong created the cult BAFTA-winning British comedy Peep Show; and Emmy-winning Veep alumni Tony Roche and George Pritchett are part of the writing team.
“Succession has this wry comic tone even while dealing with issues of power and family,” says executive producer Frank Rich (HBO’s Veep). “There’s a chess game for power being played out that, while serious for the characters, can be quite amusing from the outside.”
“Quite amusing” is Rich being modest. Rather, as The Hollywood Reporter says, “Succession is spectacular… sharp, cutting, wonderfully acted… Each new episode is more darkly funny than the one before.”
Or as Slate says, “It’s amazing… Electric, funny, fun, and occasionally, tragic… You should be watching it.”
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