Big Issue Vendor

Succession highlights family values for Sam Delaney

Turns out siblings squabbling over the family empire makes great TV

When I was about one year old, my dad left me, my three brothers and my mum and fucked off to live with a younger woman. My mum, brokenhearted and skint, was left trying to raise four boys on a council estate in Brentford, working part-time as a secretary so she had time to take care of us after school. Life didn’t seem all that bad to me because it was all I was used to. But once I got a bit older I realised it was really weird that we had no central heating, no car and were visited by a loan shark every Friday night who would come to collect repayments from my mum then outstay his welcome to make advances on her while I was trying to watch Play Your Cards Right. But every other weekend I would spend time with my dad who by now had started his own advertising agency, bought a luxury flat in St John’s Wood and was driving around in a flashy car. (Alimony? Ha! My dad cleverly convinced my mum it was better to “keep the financial stuff casual”.) 

There was a juxtaposition between these parallel lives that didn’t seem right. My dad’s ad agency was in a trendily appointed space in Covent Garden. It smelt of fresh coffee and was staffed by impossibly sexy women. And the work just seemed to involve sitting around drawing pictures and taking the piss out of each other all day. 


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My old man seemed to have cracked it. And while it was obviously wrong that he was revelling in the trappings of his new-found fortune while his family slummed it back on the estate, I figured that one day when I was a grown-up he’d cut me in on the company and I’d be set for life. It didn’t turn out like that. 

The agency sailed too close to the sun and Eighties boom was eventually followed by Nineties bust. There was no ad agency fortune for me or my brothers to fight over and maybe that was for the best. Succession shows just how nasty sibling power struggles can become when the patriarch has a business empire dangling in front of them. 

Brian Cox plays Logan Roy, a thinly veiled rendition of Rupert Murdoch, toying with the ambitions and loyalties of his dysfunctional offspring. It’s written by Jesse Armstrong, who co-wrote Peep Show, The Thick Of It, Veep and various other TV modern classics. Set in the disgusting amoral pit of a New York City media empire, it combines Shakespearean drama with the blank-eyed cultural commentary of Bret Easton Ellis and the sort of brutal, hilarious dialogue you’d expect from the man who wrote words for both Super Hans and Malcolm Tucker. It’s probably my favourite show of the past five years. It makes me glad I never stood to inherit my dad’s company. In any case, everyone knows that advertising is for wankers.

Succession is on Sky Atlantic