Monday, May 8, 2023

Recasting 2020 (supporting): "Succession"

I never thought I'd picture recasting Meryl in a true series. With the trend in the best parts for women shifting to television over the last fifteen years or so, however, my recent selections have been mostly from that medium. I generally find myself getting attached to fewer and fewer non-limited series. My view is that so few of them really stop at the right time, and that they tend to eventually jump the shark or completely cycle through the original cast to the point that it's barely the same show anymore. This is probably more true with network television in the U.S., whereas a good bunch of cable series do a better job of keeping the show's entire arc to a reasonable limit. HBO's Emmy-award winning powerhouse, Succession is one such show. 

There aren't many programs in recent history where I honestly cannot wait to watch the next episode. Game of Thrones comes to mind, The Americans, Schitt's Creek (excluding limited series where I often get to binge them).  Succession is definitely one of those. It will go down for me as one of the best television shows I've ever watched. And it seems to just keep getting better. The current and fourth season will be its last, with the series finale wrapping up on May 28. For those unfamiliar, the often-satirical show follows the Roy family, owners of a media conglomerate loosely based on the Murdoch family, which in real life owns News Corps and the Fox Corporation (under which we get the batshit news channel Fox News). Brian Cox portrays Logan Roy, the patriarch and CEO in the show. He is ostensibly trying to identify which of his four children would be an appropriate successor to the "throne." It's difficult not to draw some parallels to Lion in Winter (one of my favorite movies), with the kids all jockeying for the big job.

I'm recasting Meryl in a role that was (mostly) seen in season 2 (and bumping it a year from when it aired in September 2019 to 2020). Cherry Jones plays Nan Pierce, the head of a rival, left-leaning media company named PGM. Logan wants to acquire it, and by episode five of the season, the Roys meet up with the Pierces at the Pierce family estate, called Tern Haven. This is one of the best and most enjoyable episodes of TV I've ever watched. There's so much intrigue and enticing friction between the two families; the Pierces are depicted as a more landed gentry yet progressive-type of wealthy family, compared to the more nouveau riche Roy clan. The way they talk, the things that interest them, their politics, are for the most part vastly different between the two families. There are great moments of both discomfort and humor. The big scene in the episode is the dinner scene. Much like the one in August: Osage County, it's a long scene with a lot of moving parts. Nan is trying to get a feel for Logan's interests, including whom he plans to name as a new CEO upon his departure. 

In one of the last scenes of the episode, the two titans go head to head to try to finally nail down a deal. 

It would be a lot of fun to see Meryl negotiate that scene. She's got to be tough, but she's also sort of in a corner. Nan shows up in the following episode for a bit as well, where she puts the kibosh on a deal that they ended up actually hammering out at the end of the first episode. It was fun to see her get Logan so riled up. And she does make an appearance for a brief scene in the current season as well (spoiler!). 

Jones won an Emmy for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in Tern Haven. I realize that in the grand scheme of a show with nearly forty episodes, the role of Nan Pierce is pretty small, but when compared to movies, it's quite a bit of screen time. And I just like the idea of putting Meryl into that world, with all the rest of those incredible actors/characters, on a show that I absolutely adore. 

Succession has of course been nominated for and won several top awards, including the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for both its second and third seasons. All the main cast members have been nominated for their work, and the writing and directing are regularly recognized as well. I sort of expect that could be something close to an Emmy sweep coming this fall since this is the final season. If so, it would be well-deserved. Sad to see it go!  


  1. Brilliant endorsement from you Jeff, I've heard of this show but wrongly assumed it was about some Monarchy! I guess in a way it is! You've given me so many great ideas of movies and shows to watch, this endeavour has been an education to me!

    At first I was thinking of suggesting Meryl reprise her role as Margaret Thatcher for The Crown but felt that was a step too far. I will lament how great she was in this role and how I wished it had been a miniseries about the PM instead of The Iron Lady. There, rant over!

    For 2020 there were several role I was interested in. I would love to see Meryl work with Charlie Kaufman again but unfortunately there isn't a suitable role in his 2020 "I'm Thinking Of Ending Things".

    I know "Pieces Of A Woman" was well received but I didn't make it all the way through plus the role played by Ellen Burstyn wouldn't be age appropriate. Similar, "Promising Young Woman" was a great movie and I could but Meryl as Cassie's mother, but ultimately there isn't very much for her to do there.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say the role of Jennifer, played by Diane Wiest, in "I Care A Lot". This movie was a bit of a dark horse and was very fresh on first watch with Rosamund Pike playing such a detestable person who robs older people blind while committing them to nursing care, sometimes as in this case against their will. While it's a dark comedy there's plenty of ideas relevant to how disposable older people are in society plus which Jennifer isn't just some forgetful old lady. I quite like the bitterness of the movie and can see Meryl making the character really dangerous.

    1. I think your selection of Wiest is a great one. I was pleasantly surprised by that movie. The acting was excellent and there was actually a fair amount of interesting material for Wiest to work with. Hard to believe we're down to only two weeks left of the supporting project!

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    3. Nor can I! It doesn't seem that long since you started this great topic!

  2. “Monica,” the latest film by Andrea Pallaoro, has been getting good reviews. Patricia Clarkson plays the estranged mother of a trans woman (Trace Lysette as Monica). Would love to see Meryl in such elderly roles — relevant, nuanced, moving.

    1. Yes there are many great roles out there but I'm not sure if Meryl wants them or if the director wants her (if you look at some of Tilda's or Cate's projects, the directors want ONLY them and no one else so we can't always assume Meryl's the only actress everyone wants to work with). I've seen Monica - this may be Patricia's time to shine - what a great performance. All in all, if Meryl's first screen role back after her hiatus were to be Mamma Mia 3, I think I will puke. Sorry but not sorry.