The end of “Succession” leaves a Waystar Royco-sized hole in our hearts. With the various Roys scattered, licking their wounds, where can bereft fans turn for their regular dose of acid insults, soapy skulduggery and privileged misery grounded by occasional glimpses of human vulnerability and warmth? We have a few ideas.
There are obvious pound-for-pound swaps, past greats like “Mad Men,” “The Americans” and “The Shield.” Each has its own thematic resonance with “Succession” — the metastasizing hollowness of business; the alienation of believing that actually, many things are more important than family; the nature of affection that sprouts from routine cruelty. But those are far from the only worthy follow-ups. Here are a few more to consider.
I want something similar, but sillier.
‘The Righteous Gemstones’
Where to watch: Max
The Roys and the Gemstones, a family of televangelists, are inside-out versions of one another: A bombastic, volatile but wildly successful dad reigns over an empire that his desperate, indulged children will inherit if they don’t all kill each other first. Bickering and jockeying abound, fueled by the mutually understood but outwardly denied reality that no one in the second generation is truly up to the task. They all compensate with glorious, vulgar insults. The daughter is married to a bumbling oaf, whom she bullies with real glee. The younger son sublimates his sexuality. The older son’s ego could pull the earth off its axis.
In “Succession,” the stakes are grave, but the characters approach them with flippancy; in “Gemstones,” the circumstances are absurd, but the characters take them incredibly seriously. The shows share an understanding of the corrupting powers of wealth and a conviction that there is no greater achievement than standing onstage and singing a song. (“Misbehavin’” has a leg up on “L to the OG,” though.) If “Succession” is an ice bath, “The Righteous Gemstones” is a slip-n-slide, but the water is springing from the same source.
My favorite character is Kendall.
Where to watch: Netflix.
BoJack is, like Kendall, a character with a history of serious drug abuse, whose carelessness has led to people’s deaths, who will never be able to compensate for the absence of his parents’ love. He is mean and very funny, and also jaded, vulnerable and able to deliver a searing, soaring eulogy. They each have their Gatsby-in-the-pool moments, their long memories and deep pockets. Heck, Kendall even says he’s thinking of “hitting up some ‘BoJack’ guys” to write his tweets.
“BoJack” and “Succession” share a thrilling attention to detail — production design meant for obsessive pausing and screenshotting, with a particular knack for tickers at the bottom of inane cable-news shows. (“‘Speak English!’ Yells Patriot at Soy Milk.”) “Succession” has Vaulter-as-Gawker; “BoJack” has Girl Croosh-as-Buzzfeed.
My favorite characters are Greg and Tom.
Where to watch: The Roku Channel, Pluto TV.
Before Jesse Armstrong created “Succession,” and before he wrote for the brilliant political comedy “The Thick of It,” he cocreated this warped buddy comedy starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb as Mark and Jez, two dopey roommates who are perhaps the ur Disgusting Brothers.
“Peep Show” is shot mostly POV-style, and it revels in all the awkward and crude intimacies of one’s thoughts. Like Tom and Greg, Mark and Jez are often scheming but rarely with any real accuracy; when their plans materialize, it’s usually a monkey-paw scenario or an odd coincidence, a tiny boat in a vast sea that sometimes sweeps it ashore.
I want more Sarah Snook.
‘The Beautiful Lie’
Where to watch: Acorn TV.
This six-part Australian mini-series is a modern-day adaptation of “Anna Karenina,” with Sarah Snook starring as the ill-fated lead. As Shiv, Snook is all tiny trembles and self-containment, but as Anna, her performance is grander, wider, far more open; this Anna is reckless in ways Shiv would never be. Some of Anna’s smiles are even warm and genuine! The show itself is soapy in a good way, full of beachy horniness and angry fights.
I want more Matthew Macfadyen.
Where to watch: AMC+.
Macfadyen delivers a different version of a doofy husband in this terrific three-part British docudrama mini-series about the creation of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and the cheating scandal it begot.
Charles Ingram (Macfadyen) is an army major whose wife, Diana (Sian Clifford), is a trivia buff who convinces him to go on “Millionaire,” where he wins £1 million. But something seems off — could that guy really know those answers? Or was he being tipped off with a cough from a conspirator in the audience? The show itself is a tight, twisty ride, and it is additional evidence of Macfadyen’s mastery of “wait … is that guy dumber than he seems, or smarter than he seems?”
I want something just as cynical and media-focused but with a different vibe.
‘I Hate Suzie’
Where to watch: Max.
Cocreated by the “Succession” writer Lucy Prebble, “Suzie” centers on a former child star turned B-list actress (played by Billie Piper, the show’s other creator) whose life implodes when intimate photos of her are leaked to a tabloid. In Season 2, she crawls her way back into the public’s good graces with a stint on a dance competition series, though that carries its own emotional costs.
Both shows love to play off what viewers “hope” will happen, and their disciplined refusal to give over to the more familiar contours of happy endings and redemption make them richer and more fraught. The Roys, and Suzie, read a lot of their own press, often struggling to see themselves anywhere other than in reflection.
No, something similar but sadder.
Where to watch: Nowhere right now, but one hopes that will change.
This Israeli drama, set within a modern ultra-Orthodox family, is not currently available to stream, but fingers crossed that it will re-emerge in the not-too-distant future. There’s also no way to write a “Succession” adjacency list and not include it — the shows are deeply alike.
Like the Roys, the Shtisel children see their father less as a dad than like a temperamental god; their achievements and failures can never truly be their own. If “Gemstones” is the sillier version, then “Shtisel” is the more serious one, more steeped in grief and moments of magical thinking. And much as the Roys say, “yeah,” when they mean “no” and vice versa, almost no one in “Shtisel” ever says what they mean.
The real pleasure in putting “Shtisel” and “Succession” in conversation, though, comes from their different approaches to desire, embodied in their different portrayals of food — cooking, eating, hunger itself. Food is omnipresent in “Shtisel,” though not in luxurious ways. It’s one-egg omelets and wan, poorly sliced tomatoes, a two-liter of soda resentfully plunked on a table. In “Succession,” visible desire is a sin, and only the lowliest characters eat; the only acceptable form of passion is anger. There’s plenty of anger in “Shtisel” too, but lust and ambition are also permissible, love exists, and religious fervor is virtuous.