“Enough to Make You Lose Your Faith in Capitalism”: Succession’s Recipe for Success

TV shows don’t often get the same ‘viral’ moments they used to. The switch from scheduled programming to on-demand streaming has made new TV less of a moment for people – save for some unique outliers. One of the biggest cultural stories of the year has been the airing of Succession’s final season, a show principally about a billionaire family vying for control of their media business, but also about so much more.

Succession has been all anyone can talk about on Twitter for months, with weekly episode releases recapturing the magic of scheduled TV. But the schedule alone doesn’t cover it. What is it that makes Succession the phenomenon it well and truly is? Here, we try to break down some of the elements that make a good TV show not just a great one, but an iconic one.

The Writing

Succession is an ensemble show, with an incredible range of actors having a load of fun with a cast of undeniably unique characters. We’ll talk about this in more depth shortly, but, despite the huge star power and scenery-chewing turns behind Succession, there is one true star of the show: the writing.

Succession was created by Jesse Armstrong, a British comedy writer with a slew of successful shows behind him. The unique appeal of Succession’s dry, witty, smart-yet-dumb humor owes a debt of gratitude to British comedy – in particular, Armstrong’s breakout success across the pond with Peep Show. Indeed, if you’re missing your weekly dose of Succession and don’t mind dialing up the cringe, Peep Show should absolutely be your next watch.

The World-Building

Succession’s taut writing is only made as effective as it is by its subject matter. The world of Succession is an aloof one, above and beyond the everyday consequences of the average American and mired in near-unrelatable drama. I mean, how many shows can you watch where the protagonists [spoiler alert] each earn billions of dollars and are still considered to have ‘lost’?!

But such is the strange alchemy that makes Succession so alluring. Shrewd product placements, from private jets like the Challenger 350 to luxury yachts and executive automobiles, render a sleek world of luxury and excess – one which the Roys are often too swept-up in drama and greed to fully enjoy.

The Cast

Which brings us to the genius players behind the Roys, and the many characters in their orbit. TV is truly a game of alchemy, with even one poor casting decision or one flat episode tending to harm the whole. Succession is an alchemical success in large part due to its cast.

Jeremy Strong has made headlines and meme-status alike with his doggedly determined approach to realizing the flawed, Machiavellian Kendall Roy. Sarah Snook’s snark is perfect for the performative Shiv, and Keiran Culkin’s wry disaffection makes Roman – an otherwise unlovable archetype of ill-adjusted middle child – a fan favorite. This is to say nothing of Brian Cox’s perfect turn as cold patriarch, or of Alan Ruck’s pitch-perfect sadsack Connor.