HBO Series “Succession”

Someone recommended the HBO series “Succession” to me, and I watched the ten Season One episodes over the last week. The series is loosely based on the the media empire of the Rupert Murdoch family, but could just as easily be about the Trumps. The daughter in the HBO series is named Siobhan, which if you’re unused to Gaelic spelling is pronounced “Shi-VON”. This lovely young thing is wickedly nicknamed “Shiv” by the script writers — which seems just about right for her dagger-to-the-heart personality. Ivanka, anyone?

“Succession” is about the perils of inherited wealth, which often produces useless, morally bankrupt heirs, about family dysfunction, and about corruption in the world of really big business empires. I found the series fascinating, and disheartening.  I’ll watch the next season if and when it comes on.

When I was still working I had people of inherited wealth as clients, and I sometimes worked with their family systems too. “Succession” is exaggerated only in the degree of family wealth enjoyed by the fictional Roys.  A common thread for the people I knew is that they had no real way to test themselves in an environment where no one had a vested interest in telling them how wonderful they were. Most of them were active in philanthropy, and the amount of sucking up that came their way was highly distorting. None of them worked for pay, which is the primary environment where the rest of us get to dig in and see what we can do. Their families did, or didn’t, support them personally — but they had no real roles of responsibility in families that could afford to hire any amount of support needed. No one had to pitch in to care for a sick family member, help out with a relative’s kids, run an errand for an elderly relative no longer able to drive.

Generally speaking, it’s not a good thing when no one needs you, when anything you might contribute to the family can be easily and probably more efficiently replaced with money.

If you have HBO, I think you’d find “Succession” interesting. I may go back now and catch up on “Billions”, which also deals with fabulous wealth — this time in the hands of a financial entrepreneur. That series is less about family dynamics and more about the death battle between the rich guy and the U.S. attorney trying to take him down.

Clearly the writers on both series have no illusions about the corrupting influence of great wealth on bad guys and good guys alike. Makes the rest of us, who try with ordinary means to get by, look like the lucky ones after all.

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