You know a show’s writing team has run off the rails when even the profanity sounds awkward and forced. The media tycoon family empire drama “Succession” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) returns for a second season.
Shakespearean actor Brian Cox stars as Logan Roy, a media mogul modeled on any number of figures from Sumner Redstone to Rupert Murdoch. As the season opens, his seemingly catatonic son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is roused from some kind of health spa to make a media announcement renouncing his role in an outsider’s effort to seize control of the old man’s company.
The threat inspires a convergence of Logan’s spawn at some oceanside mansion. Siblings Roman Roy (Keiran Culkin) and Siobhan (Sarah Snook) do little but share obscenity-laced observations about their family and each other. Their cruel and filthy dialogue seems more intended to be quoted or go viral on social media than to sound like words that actual human beings might say to each other.
The corporate conclave and family gathering are hampered by the presence of a lingering odor, a big stink whose origins remain mysterious. Patriarch Logan describes it in typically unprintable terms, something about the private parts of a cheesemonger, a stilted bit of phrase- making that captures this series at its most pointless and pretentious.
In addition to bad writing, the season opener features a lot of time-wasting process. We spend a lot of time driving Kendall to his brief press announcement. The staff arrives in waves at the Logan mansion and meticulously lays out a sumptuous spread. I’m surprised we weren’t treated to watching them vacuum the rugs.
Over the past few years, both HBO and Showtime have lavished great expense and assembled impressive casts to present “Succession” and “Billions,” one show duller than the next. Both series reflect an almost pornographic obsession with money. While viewing and reviewing them, I had to ask myself, but for the presence of staggering wealth and attendant power, why would anybody find these people sympathetic or interesting? I still haven’t found an answer.
- The new docuseries “Strange World” (9 p.m. Sunday, Travel, TV-14) sets out to find some real “Stranger Things” at a military research facility on Long Island.
- “Great Performances at the Met” (1 p.m., PBS) presents Wagner’s epic opera “Die Walkure.” Christine Goerke stars as Brunnhilde. Philippe Jordan conducts.
- Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): A CIA agent caught spying for China; an architect inspired by his blindness; a 12-year-old musical prodigy.
- Women’s Gymnastics Championships, live from Kansas City (7 p.m., NBC).
- A glance ahead at the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” (7 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
- On two helpings of “Instinct” (CBS, TV-14), undercover in an erotic demimonde (8 p.m.), blood on the skating rink (9 p.m.).
- Drought changes everything on “Serengeti” (7 p.m., Discovery, TV-PG).
- Off-road antics in Iceland on “Top Gear” (7 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
- “The Movies” (8 p.m., CNN) glances at the films of the 1960s.
- Will faces a fateful decision on the season finale of “Grantchester” on “Masterpiece” (8 p.m., PBS, TV-PG).