Succession Is Successful(ish)

We’ve been watching HBO’s new show, Succession (10pm Sundays on HBO), for several weeks.  We’ve wanted to write about it but have been waiting for something, anything to happen. We keep hoping it will bring something new to the genre. A plot twist to make us drop our overpriced glass of Trader Joe’s red blend. But so far there just hasn’t been a breakout moment.

The show revolves around the Roy family, whose father hails of Scottish descent and created a global media conglomerate and his grown children help run the company. They’re a thinly veiled analog to the Murdoch family. Australian native Rupert owns FOX and his kids are laying in wait to take over. Throw in a few Disney-esque theme parks to make the empire even more expansive, and you have the Roys.

All In The Family

Logan (Brian Cox), the aging patriarch, oscillates on retirement and handing the reins over to Kendall (Jeremy Strong), his son who’s been groomed. Logan has a massive stroke and despite regaining his sharp edges some basic faculties and judgment elude him.

Kendall has a difficult past, an estranged wife who he’s still hot for, and a special needs son who only gets tough love from grandpa.

Roman (Kieran Culkin) is a prodigal playboy looking to get back in the family biz.

Shiv (Sarah Snook) is the daughter who keeps her distance from the family biz to be a political consultant for democrats (gasp!). But her fiancée Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) is running the parks.

Connor (Alan Ruck) is the son who looks to be keeping his distance and going along with the majority but he clearly has his own agenda.

And then there’s Marcia (Hiam Abbass), the step-mother. Does she have Logan’s best interests at heart? Or is she using him to further some still ambiguous agenda?

Family Feuds

Alliances shift quickly in this family. Toss in a few higher-ups at the company and board members and you have the makings of a Dynasty-esque soap.

But that’s the problem, we’ve seen all this. Many times.

Kids trying to grab power? Been there.

Infidelity between unrealistically good-looking executives with too much money and too many hormones? Done that.

Betrayal? Yawn.

Illicit activity that you know will come back to bite them? Someone call the cops for criminal unoriginality.

Déjà Vu

Nothing sets this show apart from any of the similar shows that have come before it. The Roys are more Falcon Crest than the Fishers from Six Feet Under. This is a fun show to watch. It’s certainly not boring. But all it does is fill the summer void for a good soapy drama. A boardroom coup and a dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner aren’t exactly new and fertile TV ground.

The acting is solid. Kieran Culkin is suave and Jeremy Strong is believable as an ambitious but tortured son.

But the story telling has plateaued.  You know some document shredding is a foreshadow. You know a low-key sibling is going to make a play. You know the wild cards are going to get wilder.

But that’s the problem. You know these things in a good drama. In a great drama you don’t think about them. You are swept away on the ride and are as shocked as everyone else when the other shoes start dropping fast and furious.

At the end of the night, this is a highly stylized and moderately updated of the original Dynasty with a little Dallas thrown in. The family is fun to watch, but at this point in the season we should be Team Logan or Team Kendall or Team Shiv or Team Somebody. But no one has gripped us, grabbed us by the throat and said ‘you’re coming with me.’

Maybe we’ll get that moment, that spark, that something we’ve been waiting for. But we’re not gonna bet our Trader Joe’s wine on in.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

Trader Joe’s Red. It’s a good table wine you can drag out and serve to guests you’re reasonably fond of. And if those same guests like soapy yet pointless television, you can binge a couple of episodes of Succession while destroying $6.99 a bottle wine. Ain’t no shame in that game!


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