HBO Succession’s Cultural Impact: Ratings Boom, Style Trends, and More

Image Credit: HBO
Image Credit: HBO

Succession is a riveting drama revolving around the lives of the Roy family, the corporate elite running the powerful media mogul Waystar-Royco. Often likened to a Shakespearean tragedy, the HBO show premiered in 2018 and is also highly acclaimed for its sharp commentary on politics and power. The show essentially unravels a rivalry between siblings struggling to be chosen as the successor to their patriarch, but it also reveals how wealth can extend the cycles of abuse beyond the family and toward larger society.

Beyond its sociopolitical themes, Succession can also be lauded for its undeniable cultural impact. With four seasons spanning five years, this dark family drama wields a strong influence on the spheres of media, fashion, and popular culture, as discussed below.

Success shown through record ratings

Many have feared the rise of limited series on streaming platforms has put an end to the decades-long dominance of long-form prestige television. Yet Succession is a testament that as long as there’s quality writing, people will tune in regardless if it’s aired on TV or streamed online.

Thus, it’s no surprise that in terms of 
cable ratings, the finale alone drew 0.90 million viewers with an 18-49 rating of 0.26. Since Succession is also available on HBO’s streaming service, the total viewership for the final episode was 2.93 million, surpassing the series’ previous high of 2.75 million.

Mastering the art of quiet luxury

On top of its superb writing and cast, what reinforces Succession’s one-percenter fantasy is its costume design. With Emmy-nominated Michelle Matland at the helm of the show’s sartorial choices, the characters have perfected the stealthy fashion trend of 
quiet luxury. For example, Shiv’s costuming choices of iconic wool and cashmere turtleneck sweater embodied corporate-casual before she moved onto designer suits from the likes of Max Mara and The Row to power-dress her way into the company takeover.

Equally notable was cousin Greg’s choice of 
men’s sunglasses in the final episode of the third season set in Tuscany. Characteristic of his desire to ascend the social ladder, Greg dons a classic pair of Ray-Ban round metal sunglasses to fit in with the rest of the Roy children’s subtle yet status-signifying shades from exclusive brands like Persol, Le Specs, and Oliver Peoples.

Breaking through the Internet and pop culture

Part of Succession’s irrefutable pull is how it has given its audience something more than just a show to watch on Sunday nights. Every week during its run, social media was flooded with the newest screengrabs, quotes, and references, successfully cementing the show in online discourse and the wider pop culture.

For instance, Succession’s online fandom has crowned the 40-year-old Kendall Roy as the Internet’s ‘babygirl’, with many fans saying his complex yet deeply vulnerable character speaks deeply to the female experience. Then there’s the popular phrase from the fourth season’s premiere, in which the character Tom Wambsgans makes an offhand remark that a 
luxury handbag worn by Greg’s date was ‘ludicrously capacious’. Since then, the phrase has been recycled into thousands of memes and TikTok videos, even catapulting the Burberry tote bag in question into the top online searches.

Overall, it’s clear that despite Succession coming to a successful end, the show will live on and leave a legacy—forever transforming the way viewers consume and engage with television media. Succession fans will surely miss live-tweeting about the show on Sundays, but HBO viewers will still have something to look forward to, with new offerings like Sam Levinson’s The Idol and the sophomore season of And Just Like That available on HBO Max.

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