Behind the series “Succession”, features of black humor of very real magnates

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(AFP) – A resemblance to real characters not really fortuitous: the series “Succession”, family drama about an aging press mogul, is inspired by features of dark humor from media emperors Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone.

British screenwriter and producer Jesse Armstrong unveiled what prompted him to create the HBO’s hit series at the London Film Festival, recently showing the first two episodes of the third season. He said that the two tycoons, founders of the News Corp and Viacom groups, were once asked, each on their own, what would happen after their death.

“They both said they had no intention of dying,” Mr. Armstrong recalled, – Sumner Redstone eventually passed away at 97 years in August 2020. “It hit me,” he continued. “What is happening to these men in their eighties or nineties with a very busy daily agenda?”

“It gave the impression of something quite fundamental about the fact of not wanting to quit and the loss of influence at the end of his life. And I was starting to feel that there was a series (to be done) on what these people are in general, “he said. he added.

“Succession”, produced by HBO and whose first season premiered in 2018, is a critical and popular success that has garnered tons of awards, including the Emmy Award for Best Drama Series in 2020.

This black and creaky work features the powerful New York family Roy who is tearing apart to take control of a fictional media empire, Waystar, including patriarch and founder Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox ) tries to keep control.

– “Shard of Horror” –

The series ends t built up a fan following even though, concedes Jesse Armstrong, some viewers didn’t get hooked at first “because they didn’t find the people sympathetic.”

Those who who stayed true to the series were then able to better understand the reason behind the villainous behavior of the characters. “Does that excuse them? It’s a question that I think rightfully comes up with the public.”

More generally, the series bears very striking resemblances to the life of billionaire Rupert Murdoch, 90 years, whose News Corp group is one of the largest media empires in the world with in particular the channels of the Fox network or The Times and The Sun in the UK.

Jesse Armstrong admits that he was based in part on a screenplay he had written in the years 2000 on the Australian born tycoon. Its hero is of Scottish origin.

But “Succession” is mainly a fiction which deploys a lot of humor around its characters devoid of morality, in order to entertain and shock.

“It’s obviously funny, I hope, but it’s also a drama,” said screenwriter Armstrong. So much so that it doesn’t necessarily trigger laughter, but sometimes “a burst of horror” or “a flash of understanding”: “in its broadest sense, I think comedy can go in a lot of directions.”

Jesse Armstrong, who is also one of the creators of the hit British series “Peep Show” and who has worked on others like “Black Mirror”, was confronted right at the start of “Succession” to the dilemma of whether or not its aging media mogul should be dropped from the series.

“As soon as I started writing it , I knew he wasn’t supposed to die at the end of the first episode “or then in the first season. “This is the planet, or the sun, that they move around. It could be fascinating one day to see what happens’ if it goes, ‘but not yet.’

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