By Stephen Aspeling28 September 2023
Two documentaries to stream after HBO’s Succession
Succession is an award-winning comedy drama series from creator Jesse Armstrong, following the privileged family behind a media magnate who controls one of the world’s biggest media and entertainment conglomerates. These days, retirement is shifting well beyond the age of 65 as people live longer. For the wily Logan Roy, who’s not quite ready to throw in the towel approaching the ripe old age of 80, the prospect of handing over his legacy to his next of kin could just kill him.
This edgy, nuanced and razor-sharp satire is produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. As funny and wacky as Anchorman is, Succession is more latter-day Adam McKay in its comedic approach, adopting incisive political satire in the vein of Vice, Don’t Look Up and The Big Short. As the Roy family navigate a tricky handover with son Kendall primed to take over the family business, things get progressively worse as Logan’s attempt to stay on lands him on what could very well be his adjustable, motorised deathbed. As the siblings fight for control of the company, Logan becomes a ringmaster to his own dynasty with his media empire in the balance.
Watch the trailer for Succession
Succession’s stellar cast includes Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Jeremy Strong and Alan Ruck, with Brian Cox as Logan Roy. Culkin recalls his brother’s role in Richie Rich with a Joker twist, Ruck brings a touch of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Cox’s titular role in Churchill makes him a perfect choice for the media titan Logan Roy.
As each of the deeply loving and committed family members vie for their share of daddy’s pie, they abandon scruples in an attempt to coax, coerce and backstab their way to the family fortune. A nest of silver-tongued vipers, Succession sets perfect and prickly conditions for a dark, funny and scathing indictment of the filthy rich and powerful.
A sharp-witted and well-acted series, Succession is loosely based on the Rupert Murdoch family dilemma, where the magnate’s successor was called into question following a “sailing accident” in 2018. Stretched beyond this what-if inspiration, the critically acclaimed show grapples with themes around family, inheritance, influence and the corruptible power of money.
The winner of 13 Primetime Emmys and currently rated as one of the 50 best TV shows of all-time, Succession is a must-see for people who enjoy smart and well-made television. Testament to its far-reaching ripple effect is the eye-opening documentary series Made of Money With Brian Cox.
While it’s not unusual for British actor-turned-presenter celebrities to lend their star power and voice to nature and travelogue expeditions, the documentary series is ironically so much richer in the long shadow of Cox’s role as Logan Roy.
This high contrast exploratory documentary is led by an actor who’s experienced every shade of money, raised in an impoverished community only for Cox to discover the flip-side in America. Made of Money is partly a rags-to-riches biography on how Scottish-born Cox started out poor, the son of a Dundee storekeeper, only to stumble into the elusive American Dream. Yet, it’s overarching ambition is to compare the extremes of the ultra-rich with those on the bread line in an attempt to understand how and why this massive imbalance continues to exist. Not simply a show-and-tell, Cox explores how money has been a “demon” in his personal life and discusses macro solutions in an age where the cost of living keeps rising and the rich just seem to get richer.
Watch the trailer for Made of Money With Brian Cox
From the near-fantasy of mansions in Mayfair, London, and the champagne problems of wealthy heirs to unfair evictions, the destitute and his hometown’s daily struggles, Made of Money With Brian Cox is an eye-opening social justice commentary and unsettling Lifestyles of the Rich and Poor tour across the divide. Taken from Cox’s perspective, the real confrontations and on-the-ground learnings of the earnest Succession star have a lasting emotional impact. Maintaining a healthy and timely tension between the haves and have-nots, this is further amplified by Cox’s middleman turmoil as the lived experiences of the actor and shadow of his megalomaniac character threaten to tear apart.
In another strange clash of fiction and reality, Cox recently commented on Murdoch’s actual succession plan to step down as chair of News Corp and Fox, saying he thinks the media magnate has watched too much of the HBO show. Concerned that Murdoch still wants to impose his worldview, he described the 92-year-old as “the most tenacious human on God’s earth”.
Loosely based on the trials and tribulations of the Murdoch family, the CNN documentary The Murdochs: Empire of Influence makes a curious companion to Succession. Fans of the show can conjure up nostalgia based on the origins of its inspiration while it’s a captivating chronicle for just about anyone who wants to know more about the influential media mogul and greater Murdoch family.
One key difference between Logan Roy and Rupert Murdoch is that he’s self-made, whereas Australian-born Murdoch built on his father’s pre-existing media empire. The Murdochs: Empire of Influence rewinds the family video to document Murdoch’s ruthless rise to power from Australia to the United Kingdom and onto America. Known for buying up papers or threatening to run them out of town with start-ups, this documentary series tracks Murdoch’s prolific media takeover all the way to the White House.
Watch the trailer for The Murdochs: Empire of Influence
Honing his ability to know what’s missing from the media landscape, Murdoch cleverly balanced “sex, murder and mayhem” rags with prestigious newspapers to sway politicians. Moving from the powerful “Page Six” gossip column to backing outsider political candidates in exchange for greater influence, Murdoch’s tactics have been described as “conniving” with an overflow into today’s news world.
Media pundits and staff writers weigh in on the “tycoon” and his media empire, making this retrospective anything but rose-tinted. Coming from a Fox competitor on the other side of the political spectrum, the strong slant to the reporting is not surprising.
Succession latches onto intoxicating tragicomedy that compels viewers to keep watching to see what new depths the characters can stoop to without flinching. The same incredulous spirit drives The Murdochs: Empire of Influence as it touches on timely issues around fake news, political manipulation and mass media puppeteering. Based on a turning point for the Murdoch empire, it seems only too rich that the imitative art should have an influence on the life that inspired it.
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