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“Succession” is a different sort of drama, one we’re used to seeing happen on the small screen, in the professional courtroom and the deadly force on “The Walking Dead.”
In every case, though, one key thing stays consistent: A common theme lies within the families’ interpersonal dynamics and the often-colorful relationships between those close to the wealth, and the large families themselves. They never ignore the role of family dynamics in a development that if it goes wrong will mean countless lives lost.
And for any viewers who will be watching the upcoming Showtime series about Rupert Murdoch’s successful bid to take over one of his own companies, they’ll have the chance to see how the famed media empire works in real life.
The new series — which has all the advantages and disadvantages of a TV franchise — is about the wildly different ways some of Murdoch’s three children treat one another, as well as the arrogant control Murdoch wants to wield over his family and the strong willed personality of youngest son James, who wants to run the company.
Murdoch himself is brought in to help unify his sons.
Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, however, is an unlikely counselor to the top boss.
“I’m a fairly bad dancer,” Deng admits, adding with a smile, “So, no, I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it.”
The encounters, unsurprisingly, always end with a contest for who gets to keep the prized prize.
All this is a side of the Murdochs we don’t normally see in real life, where the British mogul has built his four-century-old media empire by learning to beat the system, thanks in part to high ethical standards he built in the way his offspring act.
But that also results in tough competition, as people compete for this enormous prize.
But what’s shocking is that at least one of the sons keeps a rather close watch on his father, even when it comes to the money matters.
“You can’t be Dad’s friend, because then you’re not doing your job properly,” comments Josh, who unlike the others, is already at odds with his dad.
Posing the question to James — who learns of the proposed takeover when Murdoch arrives in London — about how he can explain the enormous wealth his grandfather accumulated, James turns to his mentor for some advice.
“The worst thing you can do,” James says, “is be a milquetoast and a wet blanket. You have to be a go-getter.”
That means constantly finding ways to make money.
For instance, James decides to sell the Wall Street Journal’s New York bureau at a time when the paper and its sister publication have struggled in the New York market, perhaps for the wrong reasons.
On the subject of family, on which HBO’s similar series “Sharp Objects” is also built on, Megan Abbott’s series didn’t shy away from the damage some of its real-life characters caused.
While “Succession” avoids the true trauma, we know from the first episode what happens to some of the Rupert Murdoch heirs who are privately raised by their overbearing father and compete for the parent’s attention.
It doesn’t take long for the series to get to its central flaw, which is that the parents’ dispute goes along long after their kids have grown up and left home.
Almost too long.
But at the same time, both series do the sort of damage control those of us who haven’t taken part in such huge corporate power struggles are too often too uncomfortable to address directly.