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TV Review: Succession

05.30.2018

SYNOPSIS: The Roy family  —  Logan Roy and his four children  —  controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. SUCCESSION tracks their lives as they contemplate what the future will hold for them once their aging father begins to step back from the company.

Succession, HBO, Drama, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Matthew MacFayden, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, James Cromwell

REVIEW: Why are we fascinated by royalty? Going back to Shakespeare (and even before that), stories of palace intrigue and the machinations of power have been staples of every form of entertainment. From stage to screen, we love to see the wealthy and elite squabble and fall just like the rest of us. It gives us peace to know that no matter how much money or status you have, people are just people. HBO's latest drama series SUCCESSION is a look at one such clan, the fictional Roy family, who share more than a few similarities with Rupert Murdoch and his media empire. Debuting this Sunday on HBO, SUCCESSION is definitely going to entertain and disgust viewers in the best ways possible.

Created by Jesse Armstrong (FOUR LIONS, HBO's Veep) and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, SUCCESSION follows the aging Logan Roy (Brian Cox) as he nears his retirement from the board of his company and prepares to name his son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) as the new CEO. Of course, Kendall is just one member of the sprawling Roy clan that includes eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck) from a previous marriage, the smartass Roman (Keiran Culkin), and his daughter Siobhan (Sarah Snook). There are also the significant others, cousins, and friends to the family who populate this Upper 1% group of misfits, backstabbers, addicts, and all around shitty human beings. None of these people are nice and all of them are in it for themselves, but how they work with and against each other makes for one hell of an entertaining series.

In the first episode, directed by Adam McKay, we see echoes of the tone and style of his acclaimed THE BIG SHORT. These all feel like three dimensional characters who could be in a documentary rather than a fictional tale. The rat-a-tat dialogue and profanity laden back and forth will recall the British series The Thick of It and it's spin-off film IN THE LOOP both of which creator Armstrong was a writer. It also recalls Shakespeare's King Lear as the children all await their role in the next phase of the family business. There are also elements of the media satire NETWORK peppered throughout as we see how the behind the scenes aspects of the Roy organizations function. It is both terrifying and intriguing at the same time. And also very funny.

SUCCESSION is clearly a drama but also a very, very black comedy. The dialogue spoken by these characters is as memorable as lines on Veep but there is a darkness and edge to the proceedings that makes SUCCESSION unlike other shows on television. Americans do have a fascination with stories about the very rich and you may be quick to draw comparisons to Showtime's series Billions, but SUCCESSION is a marquee HBO production through and through. The top notch cast is led by the always brilliant Brian Cox who imbues Logan Roy with a confident armor that begins to show cracks by the end of the debut episode. Other standouts in the cast include Kieran Culkin who may be simultaneously the least and most likeable character in the Roy family. There are also great turns by the aforementioned Ruck as well as relative newcomer Sarah Snook.

Succession, HBO, Drama, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Matthew MacFayden, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, James Cromwell

But it is the deep supporting cast of SUCCESSION that really helps it shine. Matthew MacFayden appears as Snook's Midwestern fiance who starts out seeming like a minor character but halfway through the season becomes very significantly involved in a subplot involving the cruise division of the family business. There is also a brief role for James Cromwell that allows him to go toe to toe with Cox which makes for some truly enjoyable television. Set primarily in New York, this series plays very much like a stage production with the characters often inhabiting boardrooms, living rooms, and dining rooms, sparring verbally with one another  And like any great stage play, we as viewers are privvy to seeing different pairings of characters as they plot and scheme and assume that others are none the wiser. SUCCESSION is a play about shitty people doing shitty things but it makes for great drama.

SUCCESSION is the type of show that is perfect for HBO. Over the seven episodes made available for review, there is sex, drugs, and profanity in abundance, but not in a flashy Game of Thrones or Westworld way. This is not genre television but just well executed drama and dark humor. I would expect that word of mouth will help this show develop a fervent fan base and have enough stories to tell for several years to come. The biggest problem with the series may be that none of these characters are at all likeable and it can sometimes be hard to feel bad for people who can throw money around on private planes and exotic vacations, but we can all enjoy watching them tear each other to pieces. As an endictment of the upper class, SUCCESSION Is quite frightening. But, as entertainment, it is top notch.

Succession premieres on HBO on Sunday, June 3rd.

Source: JoBlo.com

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