Rupert Murdoch The Observer ‘Succession’ doesn’t miss a beat as its Murdochian family feud continues The new series, set to air in autumn on Netflix, joins the vicious jousting of the Australian media tycoon’s children and acolytes in light of his move into entertainment The three main Murdoch children: daughters Elisabeth, Lachlan and James. Photograph: James Burton/AP
It was the family feud that started in 1988 and finally came to a head last year: the relationship between Rupert Murdoch’s three daughters and his son-in-law, Wendi Deng, the former heiress to a Hong Kong movie franchise.
The new series, set to air in autumn on Netflix, joins the vicious jousting of the Australian media tycoon’s children and acolytes in light of his move into entertainment with his purchase of the Los Angeles Times and New York Post, followed by his unceremonious firing of the then chief executive of Fox, James Murdoch.
While the show is not explicitly connected to the “succession wars” that have surrounded Rupert Murdoch since the death of his only son, Lachlan, as executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and the publishing arm of News Corp, it gives a fascinating glimpse at the competing feelings the children and ex-children of the Murdoch family and their spouses have about the patriarch, and the succession that is increasingly likely to follow.
The new series is both a reflection of modern time and what is seen as the rise of the patriarchy
In the 90s, Lachlan Murdoch was identified as having challenged the authority of his father by serving as an executive at BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, while working in New York.
In 1989, at the age of 26, he took over from his father as a director of Sky Global Markets but by 2008 he had been effectively stripped of his role as executive chairman. He now focuses on investment and philanthropy.
In the new series, Lachlan Murdoch and Deng and her daughter, Prudence, become married. Deng’s character is described as having “maturity in her thirtys”, while Lachlan’s character is described as having been marked “soft, sensitive and potentially driven to succeed”. The third character, James Murdoch, plays a “conflicted” role.
Her identity has already been changed in the show: Lachlan will be played by Hamish Blake and his daughter Clarissa by his wife, Anna Marsden. James Murdoch will be played by Alex Lenz. “The new series is both a reflection of modern time and what is seen as the rise of the patriarchy. It looks into the nature of gender roles in the Murdoch family,” says the show’s director, Andrea Agnelli.
She says the show is “intricately linked to the history of the famous family and, since we live in a time of nationalism, it is particularly about the transition of power,” she says.
“We have a very complicated, well-educated, well-defined family where, at any moment, a family member can be coming to power and that puts these modern issues of gender equality into the context of media, culture and power.”
The protagonist, Lachlan Murdoch, who is played by Tony Krawitz, is torn between being a family man and a budding corporate leader. In one scene he tells a newspaper executive: “These businesses are more important than I am. This business is better run by someone else than me.”
The series also looks at the kind of moral issues that have motivated his father’s importance in Australian life. One character is a high-achieving lawyer and philanthropist who is fired by her father, taken out to a car park by a masked man and brutally assaulted in revenge for Rupert Murdoch’s proposal to ditch the ABC’s Four Corners documentary series.
The show’s creators hope to use their new show to communicate the power of American capitalism to people in Australia, who are watching our key industries being decimated.