If you thought J. Paul Getty was brutal, wait until you get a peek at Logan Roy in “Succession.”
Played by a terse Brian Cox, he’s the head of a media family who isn’t afraid to cut anyone who gets in the way – even a sniveling potential son-in-law who just wants to be in the room where it happens.
Nearing 80, Roy figures he has to craft a succession plan for his Murdoch-like company. The cast of characters, however, is hardly CEO-ready.
The most likely, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), knows how to strong-arm but has no skill beyond “do you know who I am?” He tries to make deals but shows his hand more often than a rookie poker player. A Robert Downey Jr.-like son, Ronan (Kieran Culkin), is much too inconsequential to rise to the occasion, and daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) has spent so much time in politics she doesn’t seem shrewd enough to play this game.
Enter: Greg (Nicholas Braun), a great-nephew who crapped out at a theme park (he vomited inside a character head) and lost his job. Although he seems just as bad as the offspring, there’s a spark that could make this HBO’s “Trust.” Toss in a son from another marriage (Alan Ruck) and Roy’s wife (Hiam Abbass) and there’s plenty of garbage to sort.
While director Adam McKay uses unnerving photo techniques (the handheld quality wears thin very early on), he isn’t afraid to point out those who are left in the lurch. When Ronan goads a young boy into hitting a home run at a family outing (he offers the kid a million dollars) you can see his parents stand by with fear and hope running across their faces. McKay cuts back to them, holding a watch given to Roy by his daughter’s fiancé (Matthew Macfadyen).
Creator Jesse Armstrong isn’t afraid to punch up the humor (this isn’t as overt as “Veep,” one of the shows he worked on) but is more than willing to show just how shallow some family pools become once money is involved.
In the first installment (which airs Sunday), we get a quick look at who’s who. We know what they want – dad’s kingdom – not what they want to do with it.
Cox is a delight – particularly when he bursts Kendall’s bubble. He bustles around like Albert Finney in “The Dresser” but doesn’t suffer anyone. Strong plays according to type, even though there’s so much baggage here no one with half a brain would let him run the company and Culkin is such a loose cannon he shouldn’t be trusted with a car.
“Succession” is a tough show to watch, particularly since it deals with a segment of society we hear all too much about these days. You can see where Armstrong is trying to hint at Trump parallels but the Murdoch template may be more interesting.
Because “Trust” has been on our radar most recently, it’s the go-to. In comparison, “Succession” doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t have the same production values or theatricality.
This is “Dynasty” without the costumes, “Arrested Development” without the overt comedy.
With lots of holdings (think Disney without Disney), “Succession” could go in a number of directions. Those theme parks don’t look ripe for parody. A movie studio, however, could be just the right veer. A #metoo storyline would be the perfect antidote to all that money.
Hang with it and you just might be in line to lead the company.