Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pilot Review: Succession

Succession (HBO)
Premiered June 3 at 10pm

Though they both premiered well over a week ago and I’m just catching up since I was focused on the movies showing at the Israel Film Center Festival, this is one of two shows that debuted on June 3rd, both of which were heavily marketed based on their creators. In this case, the tagline was ‘From the director of “The Big Short.”’ While I did enjoy the film that earned director Adam McKay an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, it’s worth noting that it was really a comedy, albeit a more sophisticated one than the other projects McKay had made previously. This family drama, in the vein of “Bloodline” and “Dirty Sexy Money,” chooses a more dramatic route for its storyline, with more than a few predictable turns and familiar dynamics within this large adult family. McKay’s style and particularly the rapid-fire dialogue works better when framed in a different context, and it quickly becomes irritating here. Early moments like Kendall mocking a subordinate for asking if he wanted to call his dad gave way to excess with all too much emphasis on shots of faces and fists. Roman offering $1 million to a kid if he hit a home run was an intense display of braggery, and there’s a whole lot to unpack within this family, which of course now has to contend with the expected turn of events featuring the patriarch’s midair health crisis, assisted by overbearing music. Brian Cox is a great actor but this isn’t his best role, and I enjoyed Jeremy Strong much more in his recent arc on “Masters of Sex.” Familiar faces like Hiam Abbass, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, and Matthew Macfayden can’t save a show that’s all over the place and not nearly as interesting as it should be given the talent involved. Based on this introduction, I’m not compelled to return for successive episodes.

How will it work as a series? As if there wasn’t already enough drama on the surface, there’s sure to be much more unearthed as time goes on. The fact that Lawrence felt so much hatred for Kendall that he would threaten him after informing him of his father’s hemorrhage shows that, whatever demons may exist within the family, the outside world is far from fond of them too.
How long will it last? HBO likes to make quick decisions about its series to secure them if they’re successful, and because it took me more than a week to watch this pilot, I can now confirm that it has already been renewed for a second season as of this Monday. The reviews seem to be pretty good, but all that doesn’t matter too much since this show is officially guaranteed to return. I’d predict a three-season run.

Pilot grade: C+

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