This year’s Golden Globes race for drama series could come down to a battle of the oligarchs. Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Crown,” now featuring Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, is considered the frontrunner in the category right now — but don’t underestimate the ever-growing interest in the scheming, powerful Roy family of HBO’s “Succession.”
“Succession” pulled off a rare feat in this overtaxed peak TV era: It exploded into a phenomenon in its second season — at least in Hollywood, where industry players can’t stop talking about the show’s Murdoch family-esque intrigue, soap opera twists and absurdly comedic and infantile characters.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s 90 or so members could conceivably gravitate to the stories of an entertainment and news industry titan and his family, ruthlessly controlling the fates of media employees. The fate of the show’s fictional website, “Vaulter,” might especially resonate with voters — many of whom work or freelance for various publications.
The Golden Globes didn’t nominate Season 1 of “Succession” in the drama series race (although Kieran Culkin, as manchild Roman Roy, did earn a nom for supporting actor). That should change this year, with possible lead actor nods for Brian Cox (as family patriarch Logan Roy) and Jeremy Strong (as Kendall Roy), and another supporting actor appearance for Culkin, as well. Sarah Snook (as Shiv Roy) is in the running for lead drama actress, although that field is much more crowded.
Season 2 of “Succession” premiered on Aug. 11 — just in time for the second phase of Emmy voting. The Television Academy nominated the first season for drama series, which it didn’t win (that award went, of course, to retiring juggernaut “Game of Thrones”). But here’s where timing had a quick impact at that awards show: The Emmy for main title theme music went to “Succession” composer Nicholas Britell. Had voting taken place a month earlier, not enough people had seen the show to result in a win. But with that catchy theme song on everyone’s mind in mid-August, Emmy voters gave in to their earworm.
“Succession” seems to have that power over viewers. In an essay she wrote about the series, Variety TV critic Caroline Framke seemed to hit on why viewers gravitated to it: Not only is the show funny (it arguably would be just as suited for the comedy race), but it confirms our beliefs that the people in power are just as terrible as we think they are. “They’re small, mean, cruel and careless — which is exactly why I love to watch them squirm,” she wrote. “I love seeing them cut each other off at the knees and stumble into dumb booby traps of their own design. … I love seeing without a shadow of a doubt that they’re exactly as fallible and shortsighted as I always suspected.”
Beyond the inherent thrill in seeing rich a–holes backstab each other and struggle to demonstrate an ounce of empathy, the basic tension between those who have power — and those who would take that power away — is ripe for good drama. If there’s any throughline to the past several drama series winners, it’s been about the relationships behind that struggle. “The Americans,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Crown” and “Mr. Robot” are all shows about characters who feel they have a calling and a duty to either hold on to power, or disrupt that power, no matter what that means to the people around them.
The knock on the HFPA is that its members are all about big-name stars, which would seemingly give an edge to Apple TV Plus’ “The Morning Show,” with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, or HBO’s reclassified drama “Big Little Lies,” featuring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and the aforementioned Witherspoon. But the small body of Globes voters have aimed to surprise in recent years, including last year’s swan song win for “The Americans.” That leaves this year’s competition hard to predict until noms are announced on Dec. 9.
Currently, “Succession” has the buzz and the pop culture zeitgeist behind it. To paraphrase Kendall Roy’s embarrassing rap to his father, “A-N it’s playin’/ playin’ like a pro.”