Review : Succession

(HBO, Sunday, June 3, 10 p.m.)
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Logan Roy, the grumpy 80-year-old billionaire owner of media conglomerate Way-star Royco — a little bit Disney, a lot News Corp. — as played by Brian Cox is a pretty loathsome boss and father. That’s bad for his children, especially his second-oldest son, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who’s in line to take over when Logan steps down and may or may not be up to the task. He probably isn’t up to it, based on how he handles what is supposed to be a key merger deal at the start of episode one.

Logan hasn’t exactly been supportive and isn’t ready to give up control, whatever the arrangements were. Heroes — even likeable characters — are in short supply in the extended Logan family, with the possible exception of Marcia (Hiam Abbass), the Scottish patriarch’s third wife, who seems loving and supportive but is a potential threat to the adult heirs inheriting the old man’s wealth and power.

Despite Cox’s comic gifts, humor is pretty scant, too, at the start of this series, except for some cringe-worthy misbehavior by Kendall’s younger brother, Roman (Kieran Culkin), who’s involved in the business but is basically an unskilled, misogynistic jerk.

There’s an older brother, Connor (Alan Ruck), from Logan’s second wife. He’s decided business is not for him, and he lives in a compound in New Mexico. Sister Siobhan (“Shiv”), played with some subtlety by Sarah Snook, is the youngest and works as a political consultant.

Fine support work comes from J. Smith-Cameron as general counsel Gerri Kellman, and Kendall grows over time as a character. But the show doesn’t hit its stride until the fourth episode, which is a long time to hang in with this dysfunctional family. After that, the dialogue and jokes get sharper and there are fine set pieces built around a boardroom showdown, a (predictably) ugly Thanksgiving and a family group therapy session.

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