‘Succession’: Did HBO succeed?

Did you watch the inaugural season of the HBO series Succession? The show depicted family, business and ownership challenges faced by the Roy family, whose holdings include newspapers, TV stations, theme parks and a cruise line.

This fictional family embodies unpleasant stereotypes of entitled, ruthless, ultra-wealthy business owners but — at least in the opinions of some viewers — is nonetheless worth watching. Here are capsule reviews from some fans and critics in the family business world.

Over-the-top melodrama, somewhat like Six Feet Under, but great fun to watch the unfolding of everyone’s worst fears about family business. It presents a family business as a giant mechanism for promoting oneself, without any countervailing force of shared values or deep caring.

— Dennis Jaffe, Wise Counsel Research

“You wanna call your dad?”

This is possibly the only television show that hits the mark on how cruel, loving and funny family business can be, all at the same time! Well cast and scary-believable, this show is entertaining and educational. Watch the first episode — or I’ll call your dad.

— Preston Root, President, Root Family Board of Directors

Powerful, self-absorbed founder fighting his waning years; each member of NextGen troubled, combining self-doubt with unchecked (and encouraged) rivalry, living in a self-created bubble world with no ethics — self-control displaced by pseudo-control of the lives around them. Could have been good drama with the troika of family, business, board, but devolves into the worst stereotypes, at times unwatchable. These are not whole people — they are hollow even in their vulnerable moments. Makes me sad.

— Nancy Drozdow, CFAR

The challenges faced by the characters seem normal and predictable for a family unprepared for their responsibilities as owners. There is a lack of clarity on a vision for leadership — including among the nominating committee of the board — and a disconnect between the board and the controlling ownership group.

— Drew Mendoza, The Family Business Consulting Group

Where is the family council? The Roy family needs a trip to the Transitions conference and a family business consultant. Oh, and a non-family executive with authority. #justiceforfrankvernon

— April Hall, Senior Editor, Family Business Magazine

A profane and extreme (though somewhat based on real families) demonstration of the need for good family and business governance, especially when the stakes are high. The situations portrayed are cringeworthy, but the acting is superb. Each episode could spark a fruitful discussion of topics such as trust, loyalty and entitlement — if your family is comfortable talking about a show replete with adult situations.

— Barbara Spector, Editor-in-Chief, Family Business Magazine