They have stepped into the pop-culture spotlight via the HBO hit Succession, a hatchet job on the very rich and powerful produced by the very rich and much more powerful Adam McKay (The Big Short). McKay started off by doing a lot of cheesy comedies, made a large fortune, and then went after Wall Street types. Nothing wrong with that; films are supposed to go after the rich and powerful, and always have. It’s the media’s coverage of a TV series about a fictional family that is slanted and totally false.
The media hint that the mogul and patriarch Logan Roy is based on Rupert Murdoch, and that Roy’s dysfunctional family represents Rupert’s. In reality, the Roy bunch are freaks and drug addicts who are incapable of getting anything right. Unfortunately for envious hacks, the Murdoch brood is the direct opposite: attractive, active and successful in their jobs. They are as far removed from the fictional Roys as it’s possible to be. Still, green-eyed hacks persist in suggesting that these freaks are based on the Aussie clan. Go figure, as they used to say in American Samoa.
The writer of the show is a Brit, Jesse Armstrong, and article after article praises him as being a superior human being for getting the very rich right. Actually, Armstrong is a good salesman of pulp fiction, and not much more. His knowledge of the very rich is probably based on cheap novels and gossip columns. I had never heard of him until now, and wonder who the richest person he’s ever met is. He says that he is keen to avoid writing ‘wealth porn’ and glamorizing the Roys’ lifestyle, which sounds to me like a stripper lamenting that she has to take her clothes off every night. Porn sells and wealth porn sells even more.
The Succession characters are cartoons, so when Sarah Snook, who plays the daughter Shiv, tells a hack that she now appreciates her far humbler background more keenly, it sounds as though a PR agent has been coaching her a bit too much. Everything is a cliché in the series: the plot, the characters and the actors off stage going on about their humble origins. Having said that, I plan to watch every episode because it’s like reading a Mickey Spillane novel when in boarding school. Unputdownable. The swaggering villainy of the super-rich gets everyone’s blood pressure reaching for the sky, except that in real life the true super-rich don’t swagger or show off, and are as likely to resemble the weirdos of the Roy clan as I am to transition to a woman.
Mind you, I understand that a TV series that shows poor people behaving as badly as the Roy clan will not exactly have the sponsors elbowing each other to be first in line. Skewering the rich and powerful is safe as well as popular with the masses. There is a very simple explanation for this phenomenon: most people would like to be rich, hence watching richer people than themselves behaving badly makes them feel much better. I suppose it is human nature, nothing more serious than that.
Oh yes, there’s another thing, too, which I almost forgot. I know some extremely rich people who do nothing but help the less fortunate. They contribute non-stop to charities, and have families who are as healthy and well-rounded as it is possible to be. I mention their names once in a while in this column, and between you and me they don’t like it. But they never complain. Would a TV series based on the George Livanos family be successful? Or the Peter Livanos clan? Not only are the sons-in-law rich and successful under their own steam; they are as nice as the patriarchs and as charitable. What about the Wafic Saïd family, or Anthony Bamford’s? Too nice and too good in real life to be material for TV, so let’s invent reel life. You won’t find any of their names in the Pandora Papers because these friends of mine operate in the open.
And speaking of operating in the open, why has this Maktoum character been allowed to kidnap and harass people in the UK just because he owns race horses and has been photographed next to the Queen? I’ll tell you why, because the Brits will bend over for any billionaire bully. Maktoum should be banned from Britain until his daughters are released and his sixth wife apologized to. She is the daughter of King Hussein, an educated woman who has represented Jordan in equestrian events in the Olympics. The only mistake she ever made was to marry an ogre who plays fast and loose with our laws and kidnaps women. Now there’s a TV soap that would sell. The country makes Monaco seem like Switzerland, and the ruling family is as unattractive and dysfunctional as the fictional Roy brood.
British royals genuflect in their presence, and aristocrats stand with their palms turned upwards whenever the patriarch shows up. Instead of Succession the soap would be called Possession. The reason it won’t happen is that hacks such as Armstrong feel safer with fictional baddies. I would too.