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Hercules Says HBO’s

I am – Hercules!!

Inspired perhaps by the ongoing travails of Viacom and Sumner Redstone, the 95-year-old billionaire chairman of Viacom’s parent company National Amusements, (and likely also 87-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch) HBO’s “Succession” comes to us from longtime “Saturday Night Live” head writer Adam McKay.

Because McKay wrote and directed (and won a screenplay Oscar for) the terrific mortgage-crisis dramedy “The Big Short,” and because he wrote and directed the spectacularly funny “Anchorman” (for my money perhaps the funniest movie of the 21st century), I can’t help but deem “Succession” a disappointment.

McKay directs the “Succession” pilot but that pilot is scripted by British TV vet Jesse Armstrong, whose work I’ve little or no familiarity.*

(*McKay also produces Fox’s “LA To Vegas,” which seemingly recasts “Anchorman” lynchpin Ron Burgundy as an airline pilot, but McKay doesn’t script the show, and it sucks worse than “Succession.”)

The new show’s biggest flaw is probably its poor silly-to-funny ratio. Some of the potential successors to the 80-year-old Brian Cox character’s media empire don’t seem to behave much like human beings, and at the same time fail to provoke significant laughter. Most of them are also not terribly likeable or interesting.

USA Today says:

... Dull, dreary and dubiously written, Succession (one and a half stars out of four) isn't much of a success. … It has all the profanity and self-importance of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short with none of those films' levity or bite. …

Entertainment Weekly says:

... Succession is some kind of success, if the point is to prove the Murdochs are boring as hell. …

TV Guide says:

... A slick but often hollow vehicle. …

The New York Times says:

... the problem with “Succession” is that the drama, while proficiently made and well acted, doesn’t have enough of a charge. The stakes don’t feel high enough, partly because the strong element of satire leaves us with the nagging feeling that everyone involved (except Logan) is a lightweight or an idiot. The Roys are halfway between the Bluths and the Corleones, which, as it turns out, isn’t that interesting a place to be. …

The Washington Post says:

... underwhelming in both execution and intent …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... It’s smart yet relatively mindless entertainment, made for a time when that kind of escape is most welcome.…

CNN says:

... the series quickly takes on a life of its own, with an assortment of eccentric, almost uniformly unlikable characters …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... There’s little that’s groundbreaking about ill-behaved rich people, but in an era when serialized storytelling is plentiful, and the last show to go down the “King Lear” path fell apart once the question of succession became irrelevant (here’s looking at you, “Empire”), there’s enjoyment in watching these horrible people treat one another terribly. …

The Boston Herald says:

... Rotten behavior should be more fun to watch, and at some point, you’ll remember CW’s “Dynasty” has been telling this story with more style, wit and gusto. “Succession” makes it clear that the Roys are not especially nice people. They are also, alas, not especially fascinating. Pink slips for everyone.

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... You won't wish yourself a part of this family, you may not emotionally invest in their internal conflicts, and you certainly won't root for anybody, but there's ample entertainment in watching these thin-blooded titans self-destruct. …

Variety says:

... The show’s strengths and weaknesses come hand-in-hand; its pulpy willingness to be its silliest self can be great fun, but can also transport a show that often tries to say something real about the hazards of generational wealth into too-easy comedy, or fantasy. I admit I rolled my eyes whenever someone referred to Siobhan by her family nickname, “Shiv.” (It’s too on the nose for a sharp competitor who plays by prison-yard rules.) And Roman is a character of whom we likely see more than we need; his relentless bon mots begin to feel curdled after a while. …

10 p.m. Sunday. HBO.

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