Keep Up, Kids #3
One of the great modern TV shows, a gorgeous escape of a limited series, a book about corruption
I was going to start this issue by asking who’s watching Succession, but I’ve given up on trying to play it cool. Because if I can feel confident in Perry Mason, I can feel something like quadruply confident in Succession, which is only one of the greatest shows of all time. But more on that in a second.
First, I want to talk about the feeling of falling in love with a story. For me, it’s like a crush. I can’t stop thinking about it, I smile whenever it comes up in conversation, and I’m definitely the one who keeps bringing it up. Sometimes, it only takes a chapter or an episode (or half an episode) to hook me. Other times, it’s a slower burn, and I don’t realize how bad I’ve got it until I’m in too deep.
It’s that feeling that tells me whether or not this is one I want to recommend.
It’s also that same feeling that tells me if one of my own projects can go the distance. If I’m not that obsessed with my own stories, how can I ever expect anyone else to be?
That’s not to say I haven’t been burned. Who hasn’t started a book/movie/show and fallen hard at the beginning, only to realize halfway through it was just a flash in the pan and you’ve already cooled? And yes, same goes for my own work, too.
Anyway, right now, I’ve got that crush feeling about a new show. I’m really hoping it sticks around the whole season so I can rec it in a few weeks.
What stories are you falling for these days?
Insta followers will note that I’ve never recced Succession. Because I honestly thought you didn’t need me to tell you to watch it. But now that we’re 4 eps into what is objectively a banger of a fourth and final season, I can’t hold myself back anymore.
Honestly, no one is doing it like Jesse Armstrong and his team of “the greatest contemporary British playwrights that he has somehow convinced to work for him rather than have their own shows.” If you haven’t given it a watch yet, please let me try to convince you. (And if you are already watching, please let’s discuss!)
Yes, the characters are not good people, and yes, they often do and say terrible things to each other. If that turns you off it, I get it. But you’d be watching it wrong if you thought this was an American prestige drama, as I did when I first started it. It’s a pitch-black satirical comedy that is laugh-out-loud funny; we’re not laughing with them, we’re laughing at them. In real life, it often feels like the billionaires are laughing at us. In Succession, the rich people are the butt of the joke. I mean, it came out recently that Rupert Murdoch put a clause in his divorce settlement from Jerry Hall to make sure she wouldn’t talk to the Succession writers. He knows he’s the butt of the joke, and he doesn’t like it.
Because, yes, for all the laughs, this is fundamentally a story about the wages of modern billionaire capitalism, and how it will destroy even our most basic and intimate relationships. You’ve heard other people call it Shakespearean, and it is, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. I could gush about the story structure and emotional arcs, but I’m not going to do that to you.
The last thing I’ll say is that you can tell just how much fun everyone involved in the production is having. By all accounts, they love working together, and it shows. It’s a genuine pleasure to get to watch so many storytellers at the top of their game.
Where: HBO in the US, NOW/Sky in the UK
Daisy Jones and the Six (TV)
Two TV recs?! What’s happening?? Also: No one is more surprised than I that I’m recommending an Amazon show for the second week in a row, but here we are.
I wasn’t sure that this limited series adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reed’s novel of the same name was going to make it to rec status when I first started it. I found the first ep easy watching, but it didn’t grab me. Then, fortuitously, I got off the waitlist for the book from the library, so decided to read it before continuing – and it took me a while to really get into it. I ultimately enjoyed the read, but still wasn’t sure about the series.
After binging it, I take back all my skepticism. This show is a delight, and I might have even ended up preferring it to the book. It’s basically: Fleetwood Mac-style 1970s rock band rises to fame and goes on an emotional rollercoaster. Every actor in it is a joy to watch, and I’m pleased to see one of my underrated faves, Sam Claflin, finally get his star turn (and he is magnetic). We’ve got gorgeous sets and costumes, a soundtrack of fun bangers cowritten by Jenkins Reed and performed by the actors, tortured artists and star-crossed lovers, and a hefty dose of that 70s rock and roll glamour. Oh, and a guest performance by another underrated fave, Timothy Olyphant. Enjoy!
Where: Amazon Prime
Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us (book)
I don’t have a podcast rec this week, but I do have this book I listened to on audiobook, which is kinda like a podcast, right?
Anecdotally, I know I’m not the only one who’s thinking a lot these days about power and who wields it. Why are there so many bad/corrupt/craven/narcissistic/etc leaders? Has it always been like this? Is there any way out of it? Fortunately, political scientist and fellow American-in-London Brian Klaas has done the research I’m never going to do in order to answer my questions. And those of the myriad people I’ve recommended this to since I finished it.
I wasn’t sure how much I was actually going to learn from this book – which is an impressively compelling, funny, and fast-paced read, especially on audio – so I was surprised that the answer was “a lot.” He interviews a bunch of dictators and other people who’ve been “bad” leaders, he examines why we have leaders in the first place (why not a flat society?) and the choices we give them, and he even has a case study of someone who was both a good and a bad leader simultaneously. At some point I had to wonder if we’re not just inherently corruptible (see what I did there?).
But perhaps the most surprising thing is that, amidst a lot of not-great news for humans, he's actually quite hopeful about how we could have better, less corrupt leaders. I’ll take it.
Where: Reserve it at your library or order from your non-Amazon bookseller of choice (like Bookshop US and Bookshop UK).
(In the name of full transparency, I’ve included affiliate links to Bookshop.org – if you’re going to order from them anyway, please use my link so I can make a little extra cash! If you want to see/order any/all of my book recs, I’ve made lists on Bookshop, too: US version, UK version.)
That’s all for issue 3! What are you reading/watching/listening to that I should be aware of? Let me know if you check out any of my recs and what you think, tell all your friends to come hang, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks!
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