Succession: What’s the big deal about the Emmy-winning drama?


The cast of Succession
Image caption,A birthday party for Logan Roy in the second series was filmed in the V&A in Dundee

HBO drama Succession won big at this year’s Primetime Emmys, picking up prizes for acting, writing, directing and best drama. What’s the secret of its success?

After the hugely successful Game of Thrones concluded last year, Emmy voters knew they had to do some Succession planning.

HBO’s fantasy series had dominated the ceremony for some time, winning the night’s top prize – best drama series – in four out of the last five years.

But after its final season in 2019, something had to take its place on TV’s biggest night of the year. And Succession has been patiently waiting in the wings for its moment in the spotlight – just like some of its characters.

The US series follows Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox), the ageing CEO of a huge media and entertainment company, and his four children – three of whom are desperate to be named his successor.


For a show that inspires such a dedicated following, however, there’s something rather unusual about it: you won’t like any of the characters.

“I hate everyone on Succession and I can’t stop watching,” wrote Elle’s EJ Dickson after it launched.

“Nothing happens and the characters are vile, but Succession is still the best thing on TV,” agreed The Independent’s Ed Cumming.

Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin in Succession
Image caption,Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin play Shiv and Roman Roy

Firstly, if you’re going to watch Succession, you need to adjust your brain slightly to its tone.

In the same way that you have to tune your ear to the Baltimore accents of The Wire, or get used to the sheer speed of dialogue in The West Wing, Succession has its own economy of style.

Its tone is unrelentingly cynical and sardonic, as the Roys constantly undermine and verbally abuse each other. The kids are entitled and cunning, as are many of their other halves, who are equally keen to join and ascend the company hierarchy.

Its dark sense of humour is part of its appeal in the woke landscape of entertainment, and the main characters are people you love to hate.

“Here’s the thing about being rich: it’s [expletive] great,” explains Matthew Macfadyen’s character Tom Wambsgans in one of the show’s most famous speeches.

“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.”

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