In today's television landscape, the entitled rich have to suffer


The rich, to put a twist on a biblical phrase, are always with us. In business, in politics, but also pretty consistently on television. After all, HBO's “Succession” took home three of the last four drama series Emmy Awards before ending its run last year. The small screen is filled with a parade of characters spoiled, burdened and driven to extremes by excessive wealth and the associated power, but is it a story we have seen too often and that lately has come too close to reality?

The answers are yes and yes, which means plenty of series (limited or not) are finding success by tapping into the lifestyles of the rich and horrible with new ways to expose those tarnished, gilded cages, including “Loot” (Apple TV+ ); “Mary & George” (Starz); “Griselda” and “The Lords” (Netflix); “The Regime,” “The Golden Age,” and “The Righteous Gemstones” (HBO); and “Feudo” (FX). And in the process, its creators are reconsidering that their rich and fantastically horrible protagonists not only need a makeover, but they also need a well-deserved payday.

“'Dynasty' was popular when I was a kid,” recalls Matthew Read, executive producer of “The Gentlemen,” a show about a man whose newly inherited estate houses a marijuana empire. “But it would be difficult for the public to admire these characters or enjoy their conspicuous consumption in the same way. [today]. Something like 'Succession' allows you to enjoy how unhappy these rich people are.”

Watching the rich enjoy their privileges, at one time, was a way for the dispossessed to get a glimpse of a life they would likely never achieve. “People have aspirations,” says Gillian Anderson, who plays a TV journalist whose interview with Prince Andrew forces the royals to retreat from public life in Netflix's “Scoop.” “Everyone always imagines that when you become so rich or famous, that means everything is going to be okay.”

“It's interesting to see what people do with those opportunities,” says Chloë Sevigny, who plays a wealthy heiress in “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.” “It's something we're all curious about: What would I do with that money?”

And as Julian Fellowes (creator of the class-conscious historical drama “The Gilded Age,” who writes the show with Sonja Warfield) points out, not all rich people need to be portrayed as horrible: “Some people who have made a lot of money are really nice.” and they see it as their job to do everything possible. Others feel like they've done the job and they should have fun and everyone else should move on.”

But that's the trick nowadays when focusing on characters with unimaginable wealth. With suggestions that the abundance of money actually affects people's thinking, consider the criminal defense of “affluenza.”Writers are changing course. Will Tracy has been doing this for a few years, writing for “Succession,” penning 2022’s “The Menu” (with Seth Reiss) and creating “The Regime,” a limited series about an out-of-touch ruler in a fictional world. country.

“There is this madness that seeps through everyone [those] projects,” says Tracy. “You can see in 'The Regime' that that amount of power and access to material resources has allowed him to create his own reality, and everyone around that person has to pretend that his reality is reality.”

That indirect and fantastic emotion that the public once extracted from the stories of the rich and powerful today takes on different meanings in television series about them. As billionaires proliferate and widen the ever-widening class divide in the real world, watching the super-rich disappear without real consequences can make a show seem hollow, not aspirational.

Some series address this more directly: “Griselda” invites audiences to identify with a female drug lord, a gender shift that, according to Eric Newman (who co-created the limited series with Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard and Ingrid Escajeda), ), puts a new spin on things. In the end, she receives retribution through the death of her children, a consequence he had insisted upon.

“As storytellers, we have an obligation to show that there is no happy ending when there is so much trauma,” he says. “I look at criminals with sympathy, but if you're telling a story that respects authenticity, these people don't get away with it.”

Tracy's new spin on “Regime” involves a political dictator who craves the love of her constituents but is too invested in their perception of social media. “When shows like 'Dynasty' were on TV … the richest people in the country were figures, this black box,” she says. “Now the richest and most powerful people in the country are very visible… and they let us into their world through social media. They want us to be part of their thought process, and their thought process is largely crazy. … We want to see that freak show.”

“Mary” creator DC Moore says that when he was putting together his limited series about a mother and son who accumulate wealth and status since King James I, he recognized that there is an echo of the past in the real world today. “I feel like we've gone back to that kind of era, in the last 10 or 20 years, where absolute power and autocracy are on the rise and those leaders are everywhere,” he says. “I had that completely in mind when I wrote this.”

But not all programs point directly to an important ending with consequences for their characters. “We're in an interesting time and people have a better understanding of what's going on behind the curtain.” [life] and that money doesn't solve everything,” says “Gemstones” creator and star Danny McBride, whose show is about a family of wealthy televangelists. “But I don’t think the goal should be consequences.” [my] show. “That’s not how I see storytelling, that a certain show has to follow a certain payoff.”

Meanwhile, there's “Loot,” which banks on the concept of billions falling into the lap of a protagonist who wants to do good with them, rather than spending them on, say, shooting rockets into the air or defending autocracy.

Co-creator Alan Yang (with Matt Hubbard) notes that the show “is not a polemic; We're not trying to change everyone's mind. …but this program is on the end of the spectrum where we believe change is possible. It's not just about one lone billionaire, it's not even about all billionaires: everyone has to come together to fight stratification in society. Ten rich, nice people are never going to change the world. But do you have any hope that people can change? That's built into the program. Ultimately, that is the essence of what we do.”

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