Many television critics say that we aren’t in the golden age of television, but rather the golden age of content. One show that contradicts this statement however, is HBO’s Succession. With an abundance of shows to choose from, Succession is one you should watch. And here’s why.
The series comes from the minds of Peep Show’s Jesse Armstrong and The Big Short’s Adam McKay. Centered around the Roys, a dysfunctional family that owns media conglomerate Waystar RoyCo, Succession follows their endeavours surrounding the control of the company as patriarch Logan Roy gets older.
Succession ranks in the 98.4th percentile of drama television series globally, meaning it has a higher demand than 98.4% of all Drama titles worldwide. We can credit its success largely due to the writing of the show. Various interviews with the cast reinforces this idea. But what does good writing look like, and how does Jesse Armstrong and his group of writers seemingly always hit a home run with their scripts?
The dialogue is fantastic
While many shows overuse action to show motivation, Succession highlights how dialogue can show motivation in characters that constantly change their own. Due to the Roy children's difficult upbringing under their power-driven father Logan, sarcasm and lies are constantly used to not only show motivation, but also each character's arc.
Youngest sibling Roman often uses sarcasm to find his strength against more powerful family members as the Roys have created an environment where sincerity is suspicious. After all, Logan's son Kendall stated that “words are just complicated airflow”, which is a theme that is prominent throughout the series. The fact that words can be meaningless while holding significant power is an idea that is often seen in politics and business.
A great show translates into viewer success: Over the last 30 days, Succession had 21.6 times more demand than the average show worldwide. This is impressive due to the fact that the final episode of season two aired in October 2019. Landing in the outstanding demand category (where only 2.7% of all series live), Succession is most popular in the United States and the United Kingdom. Audiences are likely familiar with Armstrong's previous work in these countries and western culture in general has a fascination with Murdoch-like families with apparently unlimited power.
Succession blurs the lines between drama and comedy
Another reason why Succession frequently hits the mark is that it successfully blurs the lines between drama and comedy. If you look at the series from a comedic perspective, Succession is full of extremely absurd lines that make you want to rewatch it to make sure you heard them correctly. For example here’s Logan on a media buyout: “This was supposed to be choreographed. That’s about as choreographed as a dog getting f*cked on roller-skates.” This witty dialogue is not only hilarious, however also occurs during dramatic situations, which eases the tension.
The show is shot much like The Office, as it relies on close ups, handhelds, and zooms to show reactions while making it easy to distinguish the punch in the punchline. While the comedy often releases the tension, the drama comes from within the tragic psychological damage the Roys have endured through their lives being built on distrust and fear.
Because Succession is such a unique show, it is hard to choose just one genre for it. However, if we were to view it is a dark comedy and compare it to other popular series of this genre such as Amazon Prime's The Boys and another HBO production Barry, it’s global demand lands somewhere in the middle.
As expected, The Boys has much greater global appeal with over 44.8 times more demand than the average television show. Conversely, Succession has over 21 times the global demand average - more than double the demand of the Emmy-winning dark comedy, Barry (13.3x).
The relationship between Tom and Greg
Our third reason for why Succession is a fantastic watch is the relationship between Tom (portrayed by Matthew McFadyen), and Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun). Perhaps one of the funniest relationships seen on television in some time, Tom (Logan’s son in law) is the outsider of the family and when Greg comes to town views him as a threat and attempts to alpha him. Thus begins their mentor / tormentor relationship that is evident through Tom's frequent use of gaslighting, which is something he has learnt from his in-laws.
The duo are both clueless yet pretend to know everything, and coming from families less privileged than the Roys, this is a breath of fresh air. They create a relatable atmosphere that any of us would have when attempting to navigate the positions they are in, even though Tom heads the company's cruise division. Their relationship led to perhaps one of the most well executed scenes on television in recent years: The panic room, where Greg suggests the pair should have an open business relationship.
This triggers Tom, due to the fact his wife Shiv (Logan's daughter) suggested the pair have an open marriage on their wedding night. This then leads to a tirade of water bottle throwing with Greg being the victim. The chemistry the pair have created stems from the idea that they both want to be a part of this family so badly, but can’t figure out how to be accepted, which makes it an altogether fun watch. After all, you can’t make a Tommelette without breaking a few Gregs.
Tremendous performances from Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Matthew McFadyen and the ensemble cast along with the production value and writing make Succession is an extremely entertaining watch. The show provides audiences with a glimpse into the world of the mega rich and asks the question: Is having it all really worth it? Now that Succession has had two years to build a loyal fanbase, we expect a larger audience to tune into season three, especially after recent Golden Globe and Emmy wins. A third series in the works, slated for late 2021.