Family In HBO Drama Is Eerily Similar To The Murdochs

For some reason, HBO appears to have made a drama series about the Murdochs.

Sure, the family at the center of this new show, titled “Succession,” is not exactly like the real-life Murdoch family, but they are similar.

In that respect, think of this show in terms of “Citizen Kane” and William Randolph Hearst. Everyone knew Orson Welles’ movie was based on, inspired by and possibly even blatantly about Hearst.

But Welles built just enough wiggle room into the “Citizen Kane” story to deny the movie was about Hearst. The same can be said about “Succession.”

The differences are in the details. The patriarch of the family in “Succession” is named Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox), and he is a Scot, not an Australian like Rupert Murdoch.



Roy is chairman and CEO of a global media conglomerate called Waystar Royco, described in the show as the world's fifth-largest media company.

The company's holdings are not spelled out in the first two episodes (the second of which airs this coming Sunday night -- June 10 -- on HBO), but a news division, TV channels, a production studio and newspapers are hinted at.

In the show, Logan Roy has four grown children -- three sons and a daughter -- whose interests in their father's business are both personal and financial.

In the real world of the Murdochs, two grown sons and a grown daughter have been involved in the family media enterprises at various times. The two sons, Lachlan and James, are the ones most involved at present.

Logan Roy has been married three times (and still married to wife No. 3). Murdoch has been married four times (Jerry Hall is his current wife -- No. 4).

Rupert Murdoch is 87 and still head of his companies -- News Corp. and 21st Century Fox -- although he is said to be sharing the reins with his sons, and in the process of gradually turning them over to them completely. At his age, this evolution would seem to be inevitable.

In “Succession,” Logan Roy is 80 (his birthday was celebrated in the premiere episode last weekend). At seven years younger than Rupert Murdoch, Roy is not yet as willing to share power with his children, although he is evidently ailing.

This succession is at the heart of “Succession” as the Roy children vie for their father's attention. The one best positioned to take over is Kendall (played by Jeremy Strong, with Brian Cox in the photo above), who is already a senior executive.

Younger brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) once worked in the company and quit, but his father appears to want him back. Their sister is named Siobhan (Sarah Snook), but her family nickname is Shiv -- which seems highly appropriate for her.

The other brother (played by Alan Ruck) is named Connor, and generally seems disinterested in his father’s company or participating in any of the jockeying among the siblings. The family has shortened his name to “Con,” which might suggest that his disinterest is feigned, and that he is putting everybody on.

Whether or not you enjoy this show depends greatly on your appetite for a decidedly TV-style take on the business world -- which in this case seems highly divorced from reality.

In many ways, “Succession” is little more than a prime-time soap about rich people -- think “Dallas” or “Dynasty” -- but done HBO-style with a lot of high gloss and four-letter words.

You might even wonder if HBO came up with “Succession” as its answer to “Billions,” which is also about scheming schemers among the 1 percent, and has emerged as a big hit for rival Showtime.

I enjoyed Episode One of “Succession” better than this coming weekend’s Episode Two (which HBO made available for preview) for the simple reason that one of the show's main characters -- the most interesting of all of them -- stays mainly inactive and on the sidelines in Episode Two.

For the purposes of the show's main storyline, I understood why this character was suddenly sidelined in this way, but it was still regrettable.

Episode Two does offer the opportunity to get to know the other characters even more than what we already learned in Episode One. But since none of the characters are particularly likable or even remotely sympathetic, getting to know them better is not necessarily a good thing.

As I got to know the characters, a question occurred to me: What do I care which one of these entitled, spoiled brats inherits command of this corporation from their father?

The answer: I didn't care.

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