This column contains spoilers from last season of "Succession" and details about upcoming episodes.
Being rich stinks. Money makes people paranoid, lonely and unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. That's what we 99 percenters want to believe. That's why we watch "Succession."
HBO's award-winning series kicks off its third season Sunday with the Roy family struggling to keep its empire intact after Kendall (Jeremy Strong) turns on his father, Logan (Brian Cox), the latest in a series of power grabs that make "Survivor" look like a Quaker gathering.
His Champagne buzz quickly fizzes out. Before long he's back to swearing, stammering and sweating, just like the rest of his screwed-up family.
"One thing I think that's amusing about our show is that, whether we're in Croatia or Tuscany or in these fabulous hotels, we are always miserable," said J. Smith-Cameron, who plays Gerri Kellman, general counsel of the Roy media empire. "It's a funny juxtaposition that is really delicious. All these people have everything money could buy and they're just struggling and scrapping."
Powerful families falling apart for our amusement didn't start with "Succession." Logan has so much in common with King Lear that producers handed the role to Cox, a veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company who probably knows William Shakespeare's lines as well as he knows his own children's names.
"Families have been the source of drama for centuries, going right back to Oedipus," Cox said during a virtual news conference recently with the rest of the cast. "Logan is an archetype. He does represent a kind of authority. He's also a white dinosaur near the end of his sell-by rate. And so that is very similar to Lear. He pretends he's able to let go of his kingdom. But he isn't quite."
Of course, the Bard never relied on such colorful language to get his point across. The Roys curse so much they might as well be auditioning for "Deadwood." Even the PG-rated insults sting.
"If your hands are clean, it's only because your whorehouse does manicures," one character hisses in an upcoming episode.
It's that kind of dialogue that has helped "Succession" win numerous Emmys, including one for Best Drama in 2020. It's also why the show doesn't have to rely on bloody war scenes to keep us enthralled. The boardroom is enough of a battlefield.
"In terms of the third season, do we have to amp it up? No, I don't think we need to become an action movie," said creator Jesse Armstrong. "We're a bit about politics, culture, and media, but we're also very much about psychology and families. The longer you've known them, the more terrible and fascinating it is when they get divorced or have a child."
There's plenty of emotions churning away in this third season, as well as guest appearances from Oscar winner Adrian Brody and Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgard. But the heart of the series remains a group of spoiled brats squabbling over the keys to the castle — and, perhaps, something more.
"I think something that hobbles all the children is that bottom line: We all want our father's approval," said Alan Ruck, who plays the oldest son, Connor. "It's always a quest to seek Papa's love. Sometimes that works for us and sometimes it really doesn't."