“Arrested Development on coke”: HBO’s ‘Succession’ is the show of the summer
Four uncooperative, inept siblings. One rich, possibly criminally-liable father. A buffoon son-in-law with a heap of insecurities. A naive cousin who really doesn’t belong anywhere near these people.
You’d be wrong to think I was describing Mitch Hurwitz’s seminal comedy Arrested Development, I am in fact talking about a new HBO series called Succession that just wrapped its first season; a comedy of the softest black following the media mogul Logan Roy and his childrens’ quest to take over his company, from the desk of Big Short/Step Brothers creator Adam McKay, and featuring some of the most surprisingly fantastic breakout performances in recent TV memory.
Everyone in Succession par patriarch Brian Cox is a real “ohh that guy”. As dominant, Donald Jr.-esque Kendall we have Jeremy Strong, the most memorable supporting player of McKay’s Oscar-winning Big Short, but also the intellectually-disabled brother in David Dobkin’s meme favourite The Judge. As Roman, the most rock ‘n roll of the clan, is Kieran Culkin, quickly rivalling Rory for most enigmatic of those boys. Sarah Snook from the Ethan Hawke sci-fi Predestination is politically-inclined sister Siobhán. Alan Ruck of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the eldest, most passive brother Conor.
But — as with Arrested Development — the standout characters are those who linger on the outer regions of this family: Matthew McFayden is the best he’s ever been as Siobhán’s sycophantic fiance Tom; disingenuously warm in the Roys’ company, a punchable asshole when making demands of Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), simultaneously the Richard and Jared of this Manhattan Silicon Valley. These two are hysterical. The show wouldn’t work without them, and it wouldn’t work without Nicholas Britell’s stunning score, raising the height of every skyscraper with the scrape of a violin. If the dialogue isn’t exactly at high-Sorkin level, it’s generally to The Newsroom’s standards, while directors including Adam Arkin shoot with as much energy as Spielberg’s The Post, which is sufficient for the circumstances.
How funny, how easily we should have predicted, that 2 of the best new shows of the year are about billionaire old men and their weird families. FX’s Trust gave us a trans-European rock opera on greed and indulgence, Succession is a capitalist love story told in an aromantic chamber. The characters here are too watchable to be Trumps, but there’s no denying they’re too Trump to be heroes.