I have a theory that many great artists’ strength is a product of their weakness. The flaw of the relentlessly frivolous creator of Succession Jesse Armstrong, for example, is that he is very easily bored by grown-up subjects such as big business, finance, corporate structure, legal affairs or anything involving depth and seriousness. Which ought, you might think, to pose a major problem for someone constructing an epic drama – loosely based on the Murdoch family – about the struggle for succession in a global media empire.
But Armstrong’s saving grace is this: most viewers are not interested in such tedium either. The reason, for example, that Elisabeth Murdoch has been seen wearing a ‘Team Shiv’ T-shirt (in homage to the daughter of the Logan Roy dynasty, played by fellow red-headed Australian Sarah Snook) is probably not that she has been blown away by the uncanny accuracy of Succession’s depiction of a modern media family. Rather it’s because, like the rest of us, she loves the fact that it’s all a load of hysterical, escapist nonsense involving ludicrous caricatures you cannot help but adore because they are all so stupidly messed-up and hilariously horrible.
Yes, sure, Succession goes through the motions of pretending it’s about the ins and outs of a gigantic entertainment/media corporation, with endless boardroom scenes, takeover bids and so on. But here we are, four seasons in, still being teased with the MacGuffin question of who is going to inherit Waystar Royco, when realistically the business is so outmoded, so hopelessly run by a bunch of posing amateurs, it should have gone under by the end of season one.
What evidence do we have that even the patriarch, Logan Roy himself (Brian Cox), is capable of running a bath, let alone the world’s biggest media business? We don’t.