The goal of this blogpost is neither educational nor data intensive.
I’m here today to proselytize.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve urged everyone I know to watch Succession. Or to rewatch it in anticipation of the third season dropping this autumn (for those who don’t know, seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Sky).
This is entertainment of a high order.
And I think it’s a lot more, which is why I’m blogging about it.
If Godfather was about the American family in 1974, Succession is an up-to-date American retelling.
Both center on a narrow demographic writ large in the American psyche. Godfather’s family of Italian immigrants live the American dream by importing olive oil and mafia omerta. Succession’s mega-rich media empire grapples the advancing age of a founder who must (like Don Vito) choose a successor from among his children. Logan Roy is more Lear on the heath than Godfather’s sotto-voce Lion in Winter. In the 21st century tale, immigrant clothes and accents are replaced by Tom Ford suits and prep-school jargon. But the business methods are no less ruthless, the characters no less forgettable. And the effect of capitalism on immigrants and landed gentry alike reminds us of what is makes America great – and awful. Watch Succession and tell me if you don’t better understand the dark appeal of Trump’s demagoguery.
Creator Jesse Armstrong says of the Roy family:
“They behave badly and they’re tough people. They’re very much products of their upbringing and their environment. … I believe that people are products of what they’re brought up amongst. I have that level of compassion for them. I don’t think they’re unredeemable or incapable of putting other people ahead of themselves. They’ve just had a very, very tough schooling in not doing that.”
The Corleone family – hot-headed Santino, Machiavellian Michael, needy Connie, poor Fredo, and adoptee consigliere Tom Hagen. And, lest we forget, Carmela, the materfamilias, who has almost no role beyond being the stereotypical Italian mama.
Like Marlin Brando’s Don Vito, Brian Cox’s Logan Roy repeatedly says that ‘it’s all about family’, but it’s a more empowered, 21st-century bunch. Eldest son Connor (from Roy’s first marriage) is a dilettante in the desert. Kendall is the ambitious, buttoned-up right-hand-man; Siobhan (Shiv), the talented daughter who got neither attention nor validation from the old man (like Connie, who must go mute and accept the her role as wife and mother, Shiv’s ambitions are blunted by family realities); and Roman the immature, ambitious youngest son who can’t take any of it too seriously. And Marcia, Logan’s wife, is as dedicated as Carmela. Beyond the family, however, she has a seat on the board of directors (two seats when Logan passes), and a murky past to go with her suspicious motives.
But here’s the thing. Though the Roy family is loads more fractious – and the business is way more complex than Don Vito’s world of making money from gambling, prostitution and protection – Succession is also played for laughs across an international stage that ranges from Hungary to Japan, from London to New Mexico. Memorable insults ricochet back and forth in private helicopters, private jets, and castles and spas. The eye candy is awesome – the clothes, the interiors, the locations – and the pace never flags.
Bottom line: like Godfather, Succession has it all, including its own ear worm theme music.
The first episode is about the proposed acquisition of a hot internet startup. Logan’s media giant – Waystar/Royco (read Murdoch’s News Corp) has begun to look at the future with trepidation. Roman puts it bluntly: Logan’s empire – newspapers that nobody reads and TV that nobody watches – is in danger of becoming a buggy whip manufacturer. If you care about startups (including your own), you’ll be hooked from the jump.
I’ll not belabor the point. Instead, here is Tom, Shiv’s boyfriend from modest Minnesota roots, explains the allure of the lifestyle – and the reason they all pay such a high price to be ‘family’.
“Here’s the thing about being rich: It’s f***ing great. It’s like being a superhero, only better. You get to do what you want, the authorities can’t really touch you, you get to wear a costume, but it’s designed by Armani, and it doesn’t make you look like a prick.”
Remember, I’m jealous if you’re seeing it for the first time. Let me know what you think.
Educator (Associate Professor) / Entrepreneur / Leader of angel
communities /Entrepreneur in residence at PorterShed
and BioExcel / Rarosenberg@gmail.com