I’m surprised by the concept “contract television” even exists in an era of perpetual streaming, but once in a while a show enters the spirit of the times and does not leave until all the episodes have been broadcast. I think we just like to be a part of the conversation. And if there’s a candidate for the label right now, it’s definitely the new season of HBO’s rich people behaving badly drama Follow-up, who ended his second season with a press change that changes games (more exciting than it sounds), and has returned to the best viewership yet, according to HBO, anyway.
Follow-up is the dark comic story about the Roy family, owners of the media conglomerate Waystar RoyCo, and the chaos and slander that occurs when Patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) has a stroke, causing the family to start fighting over what will remain after his inevitable death. Prior to his medical incident, Logan has just given his third wife a word in his inheritance plans and elevated a foreign nephew to a position of power in the company and set the stage for a (slightly less bloody) modern age Game of Thrones scenario. It’s all very HBO.
Why should we worry about what happens to these rich people and their evil company? Tales that the ultra-wealthy are shitty or generally indifferent to the situation of our ordinary people are common enough, but not in themselves entertaining; we get enough of that in reality, thank you very much. Rich people are shit other rich people, though? It is entertainment, and is very much the appeal of something similar Follow-up. We live in a country where a handful of people — no wiser, more virtuous, or harder than the masses of Americans — have more money than God (practically), so much so that they have no idea what to do with it. If a TV show wants to tell us, they are still miserably unhappy, well, it’s at least a dish of schadenfreude to cling to.
Some of these 18 series and movies border on wealth porn – the joy of seeing people in nice clothes and smart things living in giant houses (I am a Downton Abbey guy, so no judgments) – but most of them are about how rich and powerful they are at least just as awful as the rest of us, even though they have better shoes.
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