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The writing is just as brilliant but some of the momentum has gone: Lord Vaizey reviews season three of 'Succession'

4 min read

The sets are as lavish but as the characters become ever more extreme, season three of this comedy-drama about a media mogul and his dysfunctional family is sadly disappointing

If you’re concerned about climate change, this is not the programme for you. There is rarely a scene that does not involve at least one private jet (sometimes two or three), a helicopter, or a convoy of full-spec SUVs – or even all three modes of transport at the same time. The closest we get to eco-friendly mobility is a reference to a golf buggy, which never appears. And don’t even get me started on the food waste.

I’m talking, of course, about Succession, the comedy-drama about a media mogul and his unbelievably dysfunctional family. The third series of the programme that has consumed the political and media classes for the last two years has just launched. Just as with the West Wing in the ‘90s, and the Thick of It in the noughties, we all want to talk about Succession. 

Logan Roy, played superbly by Brian Cox, is the founder and owner of Waystar, a media conglomerate that spans the globe. Logan is an utterly heartless father who has four children – and series three opens with the eldest, Kendall, launching a bid to take over his father’s company. What follows is the various manoeuvrings of all the interested parties – siblings and executives – to secure their best advantage.

The first two series of Succession were amongst the best television programmes I have ever watched – indeed, I subscribed to the platform that was hosting it, which I guess is the point of investing in programming. The episodes played out on a huge stage, as Logan Roy manipulated his children mercilessly. The writing and the acting is superb.

But sadly I have to say series three is a disappointment. To be sure, the sets are as lavish, and the writing just as brilliant. But some of the momentum has gone. We know the children well at this point. Roman, played by Kieran Culkin as a needy, sexually-repressed, Tourette’s man-child; Jeremy Strong’s Kendall, unloved, an emotionally stunted addict; Sarah Snook’s Siobhan, the only one that could hold down a job in the real world; and Connor, the afterthought despite being the eldest, who checks in and out depending on which fantasy is dominating his life. But the characters have now become even more extreme caricatures, the writers have left no room to explore their development or their inner souls. As a viewer, one is simply left wondering how on earth these people even get out of bed, such is their ineptitude. The plot itself meanders along, with fewer, if any, jaw-dropping cliffhangers.

The first two series of Succession were amongst the best television programmes I have ever watched

Of course, it is no secret that the writer of Succession, Jesse Armstrong, has based Waystar on the Murdoch empire, although as the fictional Roy family consumes itself, the business they are actually in becomes less relevant. ATN, the news channel owned by Waystar, is clearly Fox News. The series no doubt resonates strongly in America, where Fox is seen as one of the main culprits for the polarisation of politics. It will resonate less here, where the Murdoch influence is now viewed as less pervasive following the sale of Sky and the gradual decline in influence of newspapers.

In any event, we may be coming to a time where we no longer have to worry about the power of a media mogul. We are lucky in this country to have the BBC, in effect owned by the people, and a trusted source of news, to keep their influence at bay. We have broadcasting regulation, and a wide broadcasting ecology. GB News has not exactly taken off. But now the caravan is moving on, as we examine (and regulate) the influence of the tech giants. Maybe we can reboot Succession in California for Season Four.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot is a Conservative peer

Succession – Season Three: Creator: Jesse Armstrong

Broadcaster: Sky Atlantic/NOW TV

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