Like a lot of people, I caught up on Succession late. (I do love in this current media environment that a show that just wrapped up its first season five days ago is now usually considered “old news.”) But this is a show that caught on late. When I bring it up, most people are still somewhere in the middle of the season desperately trying to finish. Talking about Succession still feels like walking on pins and needles when discussing spoilers because so many people are still binging the show. It’s strangely more popular now than it was a few weeks ago when it was actually airing. (Yes, delayed popularity of a television show often happens, but usually it’s maybe a year later, not a week later.)
So, I went through all ten episodes in about a week, and there was something that kept nagging me in the back of my head about a specific character. Something … familiar.
Kieran Culkin plays Roman Roy, a kind of weasel of a dude who openly admits that he’s kind of dumb and calls people things like “beta cuck.” There is no Earthly reason why this character should be at all interesting or, even crazier, somewhat likable. Culkin plays Roman with a grin and a whole lot of panache. And Culkin’s boyish charms serve him well here. He can strut around our screens, have these terrible opinions, and yet we kind of want to see more of him. Then it hit me: Roman Roy is the Alex P. Keaton for 2018.
For those who don’t remember it, Family Ties ran from 1982 until 1989. When it premiered, Michael J. Fox’s Alex P. Keaton was a secondary character. Watching first season episodes, it’s kind of crazy how much of the plot centered on Alex’s ex-hippie parents, Steven and Elise Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter). Alex – a no-bones-about-it Republican and huge fan of Richard Nixon – was supposed to be a foil for his parents. In the early episodes, he’s basically a miniature William F. Buckley who just shows up to say something shocking. But then a couple of crazy things happened: (a) the producers didn’t realize they had cast one of the most charismatic young actors of the decade as Alex P. Keaton and (b) Ronald Reagan’s popularity began to soar – which somehow made Alex P. Keaton not just the star of the show (there were always rumors back then that Baxter wasn’t pleased with her role becoming secondary to Alex), but also an enduring pop culture fixture of that entire decade.