In “Succession”, the very rich are very, very different

Waystar Royco’s holdings – Hollywood studios, cruise lines, newspapers, amusement parks, a right-wing news channel that rules the roost – make Ewing Oil look like a franchise gas station. We only vaguely know how Logan Roy built his empire, but it was made possible in part by media consolidation and antitrust deregulation, beginning in the “Dallas”/Reagan era, which allowed his real life analogues like Rupert Murdoch to make their own stacks. .

Meanwhile, the smaller television audiences of the cable and streaming era allowed “Succession” to thrive as more specific, specialized entertainment. A series in the tri-network era had to appeal to tens of millions just to stay on the air — “Dallas” had to serve as a crowd-pleasing barbecue spread. The “estate” can afford to be a rarefied, decadent treat, like an ortolan, the deep-fried, whole-eaten songbird that featured in a memorable Season 1 meal.

“Dallas,” like its followers from “Dynasty” to “Empire,” was in the populist soap opera tradition of letting audiences revel in the woes of the wealthy. His characters were like us – jealous, envious, heartbroken – just with more money and less happiness.

“Succession” also has its universal and crowd-pleasing elements. Logan was an irresistible brute, able to wrap the emotion of a Shakespearean soliloquy into a two-word curse. The Roy children—Kendall, Roman, Shiv, and their half-brother, Connor—have developed a survivor bond and ruthless survival instincts; one arm joins the embrace of the group, the other holds a dagger. At their core, the show’s family themes are simple talk shows: hurting people, hurting people.

But his voice, as defined by the creator, Jesse Armstrong, is arch and referential; its details require a range of knowledge or at least the will of Google. As Logan is laid to rest in a mausoleum he bought for $5 million from a dot-com pet supply mogul — a cold, expensive final residence — Shiv jokes, “Ozymandias cat food.”


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