From the book that had me in floods to the feel-good film of the year, plus my new London bar obsession
This week begins the fourth season of Succession, and so does my annual puzzlement over the disconnect between the media and the public. (For context, Succession’s season three finale ratings sat at 1.7million; Happy Valley hit 7.5million.) While almost every journalist I know will be spending the next 10 weeks Tweeting the HBO show’s zingiest one-liners and psychoanalysing its dysfunctional billionaire family, my friends will shrug every time I bring it up. “Never really got into it,” they usually say. “It looked annoying.”
Well, I suppose it is a bit annoying – essentially one giant business meeting stretched over four seasons. And while I adore the show and even found myself quoting one Logan’s best lines in the office yesterday – “if we’re good, we’re good” – part of me can’t help but agree with my colleague Anita Singh’s review: thank God it’s almost over.
Since many of you here do work in the media however, let’s all indulge ourselves for a moment longer with some hot Succession links. This Ringer piece on The Making Tom Wambsgans, who quietly usurped cousin Greg as everyone’s favourite character at some point during season three, is delicious, with choice nuggets including that writer Jesse Armstrong didn’t give Matthew Macfadyen a single note on how to play him, and that he improvised part of that excruciating scene in season one, in which he gifts Logan a Patek Philippe.
Fashion and culture writer Amy Odell also provided some very fun commentary on why Shiv is looking particularly drab this season, opening the episode in a boring brown suit. She quotes the show’s costume designer Michelle Maitland, who has said that Shiv has always dressed to get Logan’s approval, and so ultimately her wardrobe indicates her self-worth. This season, she feels dejected by the end of her marriage and unnerved by Tom’s rise up the hierarchy, hence those hideous (also brown) drawstring trousers and that sad little white cardigan.
And here’s my usual quick links:
I’ve been watching Rye Lane, a joyous, visually stunning rom-com that will make you fall in love with Peckham, by first-time feature director Raine Allen-Miller. David Jonsson (also of Industry fame, and who might have the world’s most infectious smile) stars as a comically heartbroken accountant whose snivelling sob-sesh in a unisex toilet is interrupted by aspiring costume designer Yas (Vivian Oparah).
They get to know each other over one particularly long and eventful day meandering through an airbrushed, candy-coloured South London. Not only was it brilliant to see two black leads fall in love on screen without any backdrop of racism or a trauma-driven storyline, it subverts expected gender dynamics too. I loved watching Yas make all of the romantic moves – she even drives a hilariously nervous Dom on the back of a moped.
I’ve been reading This is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan, having been implored to read it by a book club friend just before Christmas. I defy anyone not to sob pretty much throughout this heartbreaking memoir about Morgan’s husband waking from a six-month coma and no longer recognising her. Even more cruel: he recognises everyone else, and then she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Oof. Morgan is an acclaimed screenwriter (The Split, The Iron Lady) and her memoir is all pacy dialogue and stage directions, as she tries to make sense of chaos by turning it into something rather beautiful.
I’ve been listening to the debut record from Boygenius, the new band fronted by Phoebe Bridgers and two of her closest friends. It’s hazy and lovely, all soft guitars, delicate harmonies and sweet, simple lyrics about heartbreak. Try the single, Emily I’m Sorry.
I’ve been interviewing Jordan Stephens, one half of former rap-pop duo Rizzle Kicks, whose summer anthem Down with the Trumpets still hits the spot on a sunny day out in London. He’s a solo artist now, and I had him on my podcast Straight Up to talk about his dizzying rise to fame at just 18 years old. He was very good fun, shared many stories about why he’s now sober (hard and fast fame seems to do that to you), getting in big trouble at the Brits one year, and what it’s like to have a very famous girlfriend - Jade Thirwall from Little Mix. He also spoke very compellingly about male shame in the wake of Andrew Tate. Listen here.
I can’t stop thinking about SOMA, my favourite new bar in London, that I was recommended a few months ago and have been making regular pilgrimages to ever since. It’s the basement bar to Indian restaurant Kricket - also excellent - and ticks all the boxes. Firstly and most importantly, the vibe: gorgeously moody low lighting, unobtrusive but effortlessly cool music, a big central communal bar table primed for making new friends, and bartenders who will patiently point you towards ‘the cocktail that ‘tastes most like a marg’ and even offer to swap it for you if you don’t like it (you will).
Secondly, the drinks are flawless: pre-mixed, they arrive almost instantly, and while adventurous, none of them need the conceptual breakdown so many pompous London bars seem to think we find interesting. Thirdly, they’re (relatively) affordable — £12 isn’t cheap but it's better than most.
And finally, having long-lamented that British bar culture is terrible compared to New York – great bars close before 12, shit bars stay open until 2 – I am pleased to report that SOMA opens 6-3am. I have yet to end up there for a nightcap but I can imagine it gets pretty fun. They only take bookings if you’re four or more, leaving plenty of room for walk-ins. So if you’re the kind of mythical creature who makes spontaneous plans and doesn’t mind a queue, then you’re all set.
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Steve Krakauer previously mentioned in his newsletter [couldn't find the specific link to share] that media folks watch and tweet about it because they assume it's about Rupert Murdoch and his family. I watch but don't tweet about it, and I don't know anyone who watches, either. [Probably don't count because I am not American or European.]
I'm so glad someone else admitted that Tom is their favourite character. On my TL everyone's still being weirdly supportive of Shiv and she's a lost cause to me now. I also *had* to write about Succession this week - it's just irresistible, but not many of my IRL friends watch, or care, about it at all!