The Tall Jerks on “Veep" and "Succession” Are Social-Media Gold
This summer, you could watch the word-of-mouth fandom of Succession (HBO’s new dark comedy about a Murdoch-like media dynasty) build in real time via social media. It felt like a lot of people sampled the pilot and bailed, but the fantastically sharp series really takes off around the third episode — and a chorus of converts kept noodging others to watch.
(It made for an amazingly predictable cadence. One day I would see someone tweet, “Everyone is telling me to watch Succession. Do I really need to? I can’t take on another show…,” and be met with a chorus of “DO IT!” replies. And then two days later that original tweeter would post, “I JUST BINGED THE WHOLE SEASON AND HOLY [FUCK/SHIT/OTHER-PROFANITY] IT IS GREAT AND YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING THIS.” And the buzz cycle of life still continues over on HBO Go.)
Everyone has their favorite character, but I’ve definitely noticed an ever-growing love for cousin Greg, the dopey and incredibly tall lost-soul stoner cousin ordered by his mother to beg his great-uncle (the Rupert-y patriarch) for a job. Through most of the season he awkwardly forces himself into the family’s orbit, stumbling around the periphery, craning his head down to insert his way into conversations only to be treated like shit by whomever he makes eye contact with.
It was around the time that someone told him, “Buckle up, Fucklehead,” that I realized he seems to have another cousin in the bigger HBO universe: Jonah from Veep. They share whatever genetic string makes you a jarringly tall scapegoat. Sure, Cousin Greg (played by Nicholas Braun) is more likable than the 100% shitty Jonah, but they are clearly in the same genus, driven to shove their way into an inner circle, only to be repeatedly beaten back by a witheringly poetic litany of verbal abuse.* And fans love both of these poor jerks.
This calls for a crossover video, HBO. I don’t mean have Jonah show up on Succession in a Fantasy Island/Love Boat-crossover kinda way, hitting the Roys up for a SuperPAC donation. I mean make a social video with Timothy Simons (Jonah) and Braun that plays to what people love/hate about their characters. Veep is now shooting: When it returns for its seventh season, have Jonah and Greg exchange “nobody understands what I go through but you” emails; have the actors themselves discuss how being tall is a great tool in the acting toolbox when portraying a scapegoat/nuisance. Do a “Mean Tweets”-esque video where they each read the other the worst things written about his character.
The Venn diagram of these shows’ fan bases probably overlap, and their dark, cynical sensibilities surely do: Something with Jonah will draw Veep fans and expose more of them to Succession, a new show they’ll love. A wave of social-media retweets for this Justice-League-of-America’s-Tall-Outcasts video will add to the chatter of this growing show, building its momentum — and it’ll reinforce the HBO brand, subconsciously framing it as the place where all the funniest characters hang out.
And who knows: Maybe Game of Thrones’ final season will feature Brad Garrett as a noodgy warlord. Then HBO can really corner the market on annoying tall guys!
*NOTE: It is a sign of how great these characters are that I, also a disconcertingly tall person, like them so much. You’d think I’d consider these jerks the Shylock of six-footers.