‘I’m the eldest boy!’: With back-to-back finales, ‘Succession’ and ‘Barry’ end

We said goodbye to two HBO mainstays on Sunday night. PLUS: Will Ferrell to tackle ‘Madden,’ my thoughts on new mini donuts, and who’s scoring the new ‘Ninja Turtles’?

‘I’m the eldest boy!’: With back-to-back finales, ‘Succession’ and ‘Barry’ end
Jeremy Strong in the Succession episode “With Open Eyes” and Bill Hader in the Barry episode “wow.” / HBO

Hello! This edition of Popculturology is going to be on the shorter side coming off the holiday weekend. While there was some news the past few days, it’s been relatively quiet when it comes to new movie trailers and major scoops.

The weekend saw the end of Succession and Barry, two pillars of HBO’s Sunday night lineups the last few years. More on those shows below.

We also made our way through the new season of Queer Eye. I’d like to think the show since has the same cultural impact that it did the first few seasons it was back on Netflix, but I had no idea there were new episodes available until we opened Netflix to see if there was anything fresh to watch a few nights ago.

Today is the day when Season 3 of I Think You Should Leave hits Netflix. Hopefully we all have the chance to watch the new batch of episodes at least once today.

Our daughter has been watching a lot of Ms. Rachel lately (if you know, you know), but I think she’s finally starting to be interested in Sesame Street. I got her some Sesame Street figures on Friday, and while she knew Cookie Monster, a lot of the gang was new to her. I randomly pulled up the Sesame Street segment where Bert and Ernie go fishing to show her some of the characters — which led to that being the only thing she wanted to watch for a day or two. It’s nice to see a Sesame Street segment from 1982 connect with a kid in 2023.

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In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: Succession and Barry call it
  • The News: Will Ferrell to play John Madden, Moana finds a director, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring the new TMNT movie
  • Snack Break: Little Debbie Mini Zebra Donuts

Feature Presentation
Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook in the Succession episode “With Open Eyes.” / HBO

‘We are bullshit’

Have two major HBO shows ever wrapped up their runs on the same night? Succession and Barry pulled off that feat on Sunday night, with both shows coming to an end after four seasons.

Most importantly, both shows came to an end as part of their creators’ plans, not as a cancelation or some weird cost-cutting move by Warner Bros. Discovery. (Westworld, for example, was not so lucky.)

While we didn’t watch the first season of Succession as it aired, it became a must-watch show for us once we caught up before the second season began. Over Succession’s final three seasons, I think the only episode we didn’t watch the night it premiered was “Connor’s Wedding.” You know, the episode where Logan died and everyone decided it was cool to immediately tweet about.

I feel like our relationship with Barry was the inverse of how we moved along with Succession. Barry was an instant watch for us when it premiered in 2018. Bill Hader as hitman was such a buzzy concept — how could we skip that? The final season, though, lost “we have to watch this right now” status for us. Sure, the 10 p.m. airtime didn’t help, but we’ll stay up that late to watch something if we really care about it. (God, I feel so old talking about staying up past 10. I used to go to bed at 4 a.m.) A lot of this season’s episodes have been spoiled on Twitter before I can watch them, but Barry in its final form wasn’t a show I felt I had to protect myself from spoilers for.

The finales for Succession and Barry reflected how I’d grown to feel about the two shows. There was no way we weren’t going to watch Succession on Sunday night. The show’s voice and sense of direction was just as strong as it had always been — even more so since Logan’s death. Barry, though, no longer seemed to have a purpose. After Barry was caught at the end of Season 3, this season spent so much time unwinding that ending, only to seem unsure what to do with the threads once they were unwound. (Don’t get me wrong, Barry still had some amazing moments like NoHo Hank and Cristobal at Dave & Busters.)

In the end, Succession gave us the only finale that ever made sense for its story. There would be no Roy family member at the helm of Waystar Royco. As Logan had warned his children, they were not serious people. They were unfit to lead and unable to put aside their innate sense of self-destruction long enough to come together and defeat the threat posed to their legacy.

“We are bullshit,” Roman declared once it became apparent that he and his siblings had been conquered. No matter how much money this family had, they were powerless and empty when it came time to rally together.

“With Open Eyes” solidified Succession as a hall-of-fame HBO show, delivering an episode full of memorable moments. Kendall crying, “I’m the eldest boy!” in a desperate attempt to claim his father’s mantle. Shiv silently taking Tom’s hand in the car, the power dynamic between the two fundamentally shifted. Roman licking his mother’s husband’s precious cheese.

Emmys for everyone. All of them! (Especially Jeremy Strong, who was on the verge of going past the point of no return for the finale …)

I can’t say that Barry stuck the landing like Succession.

Unlike Succession, Barry was coming into its series finale without the founding of a solid season. The show never seemed quite sure what to do with Barry during its final run.

Did Hader want the final season of Barry to be a deconstruction of this genre? There are so many moments in the series finale where the show zags around the expected resolution. Barry arrives at NoHo Hank’s headquarters with a zillion guns, ready to fight his way to John? Nope, the violence is already over and Fuches sends Barry’s son to him without any confrontation.

The problem with this deconstruction, though, is that it makes the title character in Barry a nonfactor in his own show.

While he was in prison, Barry continued without him. And after he escaped prison, he failed to have an impact on the characters around him. In the end, it didn’t seem like Sally paid for anything she did. Gene Cousineau took the fall for Barry’s actions, but only because of his own hubris.

The biggest sin of Barry’s final season? We never got a scene with Barry and NoHo Hank together that wasn’t over the phone.

Maybe Hader had a plan for how Barry and Gene’s stories would end, but in the process of getting there, the other pieces on the board became neglected.

Whenever a big HBO show ends, it’s easy to get caught up in the “oh, what will HBO do with without this one?!” game. HBO’s been swapping out iconic shows for a long time now. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about The Sopranos, Game of Thrones or Succession — there’ll always be the search for the next watercooler show.

Might I offer The Righteous Gemstones when it returns in June?

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The News
Will Ferrell in Kicking and Screaming. / Universal Pictures

Will Ferrell to play John Madden in David O. Russell film

Will Ferrell loves a sports movie. Talladega Nights, Semi-Pro, Kicking and Screaming. He has a movie where he’ll play a golfer in the works. He was infamously passed over by Adam McKay for the role of Jerry Buss in Winning Time (the role went to Michael Shannon before John C. Reilly replaced him), a move that ended the working relationship between Ferrell and McKay.

According to a Deadline report, Ferrell has found a new sports icon to play: John Madden.

If the deal goes through, Ferrell will star in Madden for director David O. Russell and Amazon/MGM.

The Moana remake better not throw away its shot

The Moana remake has a director. According to Daniel Richtman (via The DisInsider), Hamilton director Thomas Kail has come aboard to helm the project. John Musker and Ron Clements directed the original version of Moana.

From what I can find online, Kail has yet to direct a feature film, but has two projects (including an adaption of Fiddler on the Roof) in the works. The Moana remake will be his most high-profile movie, though.

Kail isn’t the first Hamilton alum in the Moana-verse, with Lin-Manuel Miranda writing songs for the original version.

A scene from the Teenaga Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem trailer. / Nickelodeon Movies

Cowabunga! Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are scoring the new TMNT movie

Here’s a combo I never thought to expect: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are writing the score for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Director Jeff Rowe confirmed the news on Twitter on Sunday.

“The score is absolutely AMAZING,” Rowe wrote. “Exhilarating, terrifying, heartbreaking, full of sounds I didn’t know existed. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. I love it so much.”

Reznor and Ross have become a prolific scoring duo over the past decade or so, winning Oscars for The Social Network and Soul scores while also composing the music for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and HBO’s Watchmen series.

While there’s a new trailer for Mutant Mayhem coming out this week, Rowe clarified that it wouldn’t feature any of Reznor and Ross’ score.

”You’ll just have to wait until August 2 to have your mind shattered and rebuilt with beauty and then shattered again,” he tweeted.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4. / Lionsgate

Quick hits

  • I’m thinking he’s back — for a fifth time. Lionsgate revealed during an earnings call that a fifth John Wick film is in the works, saying, “We’re building out the world and when that 5 movie comes, it will be organic — will be organically grown out of how we’re starting to tell those stories. But you can rely on a regular cadence of John Wick.”
  • ‘I have a feeling that that might have been a factor in not being thought favorably of by Lorne Michaels’: Mark Hamill offered Esquire his theory on why he’s never been asked to host Saturday Night Live.
  • Thunderbolts halted. With the studios still unwilling to meet the terms of the WGA, the work stoppage pauses another Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

The Box Office Report
Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid. / Walt Disney Pictures

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The Links

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Snack Break

Little Debbie Mini Zebra Donuts

I love mini frosted donuts. They’re available at every grocery store and gas station, which makes them the perfect on-the-go breakfast for a long drive or while you’re waiting for a car inspection. While Hazel and I were at the grocery store on Monday morning, these caught my eye — and there was no way I wasn’t going to buy them. These are a perfect combo of the Little Debbie Zebra Cakes and the mini donut that we all love. I’m keeping them in the fridge to preserve the iconic artificial snap of the frosting.

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