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“None of it’s real, but it all is”

I can’t get enough of Succession’s “freaks and drug addicts”, says Taki in The Spectator. But I’m afraid the show’s “wealth porn” is baloney. The viewers glued to this “swaggering villainy of the super-rich” every Monday night might feel they’re getting a glimpse of how the other half lives. But the truly super-rich “don’t swagger or show”. Fawning critics say that, in fictional media tycoon Logan Roy and his offspring, writer Jesse Armstrong gets “the very rich right”. If Armstrong has ever met a very rich person, I’ll eat my hat. In real life my extremely wealthy chums are as likely to “resemble the weirdos of the Roy clan as I am to transition to a woman”.

“None of it’s real, but it all is,” says Henry Mance in the Financial Times. Take former CBS and Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who held on even when he could no longer speak. He communicated via an iPad loaded with clips of himself saying “yes”, “no” and “fuck you”. Or Robert Maxwell, who upon his death bequeathed to his sons a surprise fraud trial. These family histories are mixed together like an “Oedipal Ottolenghi recipe”. But the Murdochs are the key ingredient. Armstrong once wrote a script (never produced) about Rupert Murdoch’s 78th birthday party. Jeremy Strong, who plays heir apparent Kendall in Succession, says he’s studied everything about them: “James Murdoch ties his shoelaces very tightly. That was interesting.”

The only Murdoch “F-word tirade” I recall came not from the father, but from his son James, says Alastair Campbell in the Evening Standard. They were arguing about Israel and Palestine in front of Tony Blair, which prompted Murdoch to rebuke his son for “speaking like that in front of the prime minister”. He’d heard “far worse”, of course. Still, it’s hard to avoid the parallels: children vying for attention and power in the family court, “sailing close to the borders of legality, and sometimes crossing them”. This is how “the one per cent of the one per cent lives”. Thank God it’s funny. I recently overheard a woman say: “I never realised it was a comedy.” If it wasn’t, the show would be insufferable.

That’s why the Murdochs are said to be Succession fans, says Sarah Ditum in UnHerd. Jerry Hall, the fourth Mrs Murdoch, tunes in. That isn’t an obvious reaction to a drama said to be an unflattering portrait of her family: perhaps she just wants to be in on the joke. But I think there’s more to it than that. For viewers “in the 99%”, Succession is a reminder that, regardless of privilege, the achingly wealthy are still pettily human. And for viewers in the 1%, it’s a promise that the world could see their humanity – however little sympathy the super-rich might deserve.

What did the critics make of Succession? See Film and TV.