I have been reliving the exact moment somebody first told me about Succession, in that long lull between seasons one and two. London Bridge, an early autumn day that was crisp rather than slippery, the sun bouncing high from the Shard, and then: “Yeah it’s like a cut-throat family saga set in the glowing coals of what is basically Rupert Murdoch’s empire, also everyone is wearing caps and gilets.” Some TV just finds you this way: not via the Sky homepage or the trending topics on social media or the Gogglebox rewatch on Friday night, but passed along to you like a gift. Hey, you need to watch this, it’s the best thing on TV right now, I need someone to talk to about it.
So: hey, you need to watch Industry (Tuesday, 10.40pm, BBC One), it’s the best thing on TV right now, I need someone to talk to about it. The first season, an HBO–BBC venture that if you have eight spare hours this weekend is worth ignoring your so-called plans for and catching up on, was a criminally underwatched world-setter where five new graduates tumble through the first fraught year working at an investment bank, making heart-thudding million-pound goofs during the day and taking far too much ketamine at night.
No, I know, you don’t want to feel sympathy for bankers. But that’s the beauty of Industry – when you see Harper have the most stressful hangover ever committed to screen, or see Robert fit uncomfortably in his new suit, or when you see Yasmin deal with a drippy university boyfriend who has “got into making sushi”, you don’t feel sympathy, exactly. Maybe a distant twinge of it – something happened to these people that made them so cravenly ambitious, and now they’re on the banking floor and they’re only going to get worse! – but you do not have to care for them. Watching Industry can feel like watching the Grand National as a novice: you choose someone whose name you like or vibe you click with, and mindlessly back them to win. But if they lose spectacularly then that is entertaining, too.
Season two starts by breaking TV’s omerta: it acknowledges Covid exists and the pandemic happened. Our graduates are now in their third year at the company: Harper is crawling back to the office after a year of desk-based fear, Robert has lost all the slick shaggability that made him a success in Year One, Yasmin has become hardened and cold, and Gus has quit his job and dyed his hair blue. Conor MacNeill’s Kenny has a beard and contrition. Ken Leung might be the most charismatic man on TV right now, and this season’s Eric is a force of unpredictability. You can never tell if he’s spinning out of control or if he is an all-seeing god who contains all the power in the universe.
The threat of the New York office looms, and the two major new additions – Alex Alomar Akpobome’s lion-hearted Danny Van Deventer and Jay Duplass’s smiling monster Jesse Bloom – bring a satisfying rock to the already uneven boat. But what made season one so great – genuinely sexy; superb soundtrack with snippets of background dialogue that are better than most show’s actual script; dizzying scenes where someone makes a high-pressure phone call and uses vocabulary you only know about 80% of the meaning of – is back in spades. Everyone is stabbing each other in the back all the time while saying how important the team is. I love it.
We’ve had a wholesome couple of years of TV, I think. A lot of channels realised the most-watched show on the planet is still “old episodes of the American Office” and are trying to capture some of that. What’s refreshing about HBO’s recent output – Industry and House of the Dragon, and let’s not forget Succession while we’re here – is that it acknowledges that people are horrors then keeps you on your toes about it. You never really know who in Industry is being banker-evil or evil-evil. You don’t really know who’s being banker-dumb or a genuine self-sabotaging idiot. It’s unlikely anyone’s ever going to pull a sword out and commit regicide, but Eric’s baseball bat is always just there, softly swinging, never making you comfortable enough to stop worrying a desk might end up getting smashed. Remember where you were when I told you that Industry was the next big show to watch. Now boot up iPlayer and get on with it.