Succession V. Billions: Two Super Fans Debate TV's Smartest Shows About The 1%

Every Friday this summer, Refinery29 explores the passionate, rollicking world of fandom. We’ll take a look at how we organize, create, debate and show our passion for the things we love — the good, the bad, and the loud.
This week for Refinery29’s “Fandom Fridays,” editor Morgan Baila and writer Elena Nicolaou argue which show is better: Succession or Billions. Baila and Nicolaou are self-proclaimed experts on each of their favorite shows — just check out their Twitter feeds.
Morgan: It’s no secret that prestige TV is at its all-time peak. From record-breaking shows like Game of Thrones to the heartbreaking Handmaid’s Tale to the rule-breaking Euphoria, there’s something spectacular for everyone just a few clicks away. But all these well-received and critically-acclaimed shows lack a key element — or elements — holding them back from achieving a fandom like no other: They aren’t Succession, hands down the best show of 2018, and soon-to-be the best show of 2019. There’s really no arguing...
Elena: Woah, woah, woah — let’s not get carried away here. I’ve just wrested the mic away from Morgan, who was about to make some pretty grand statements about the state of TV. How can Succession be the best show on TV, when Billions, the original about New York’s uber-rich power players, also exists? Billions is like a soap opera written by Mensa members. Billions, you see, is the best...
Morgan: If Billions is a soap opera, then Succession is Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” It’s a Shakespearean vivisection of the media world and the underbelly of family dynamics! At the most, Billions walked so Succession could run.
As you can see, Billions and Succession fans are dedicated — and that’s only one of the many similarities the shows share. On scattered Sundays throughout the year, we congregate on Twitter to watch New York’s’ .01% frolic in their native ecosystems. Both shows have rich dysfunctional men and Twitter followings to thank for their infamy (you could even argue that Twitter made Succession). But we would be remiss in not acknowledging the real power players: the capable AF women keeping those bozos in line.
Since — unlike their all-powerful, and boundary-lacking respective main characters — HBO and Showtime would never get into a public argument like this, we’re doing it for them. Anne Cohen, our movie critic and fan of both shows, will make the final call.
May the best billionaire win!

Real Estate Porn

Succession: There is no shortage of real estate porn in Succession, from the Roys’ Uptown apartments — each more extravagant than the next — to the Waystar Royco office in downtown Manhattan. The ceilings are high, the views are priceless, and the silverware is probably actual silver. But the most awe-inducing piece of Roy real-estate is their country estate, big enough to house all their family drama. (It’s ginormous.) Plus, Connor owns an actual church in Arizona, which has to count for something, right? God is the ultimate landlord, as the saying goes.
Billions: Sure, Billions is teeming with the kind of high-rise penthouse apartments that are staples in shows about wealthy New Yorkers: 70% glass, 20% modern art picked out by someone else, and 10% blank white space. Bobby’s Hamptons house is the size of a suburban town. But that’s not the interior design that makes me drool. No, what I want is the hardwood table in Chuck Rhoades’ dining room. Around that table, Chuck, Wendy, and Bobby drink whisky and speak openly about revenge plots. That’s the kind of energy I need in my house.
Winner: Succession. Billions’ exhibitive wealth used to be a real draw, but over time, it’s become increasingly generic, taking a backseat to all the petty drama between Axe and Taylor. Succession’s real estate feels more thought out as a representation of extravagance. What I’m saying is: Hi, I would love to be invited to the next dining room therapy session!


Succession: There’s an episode called “Sad Sack Wasp Trap” for fuck's sake! Insults are the DNA of this show. There’s no way Billions could ever top this supercut of everyone telling each other to “Fuck off.”
Billions: The insults are the best part of Billions. The characters revel in language. Even nemeses seem to appreciate the other’s elegant insults, calibrated for both maximum emotional damage and cleverness. Just the way Bobby pronounces the word “Taylor” is an insult. Billions characters don’t suffer from l'esprit de l'escalier,” or the come-back you think of too late. Without any hesitation, Chuck Sr. always has the necessary cutting remark or pop culture reference to goad his son into action. Fine, Billions characters don’t speak like “real people” do. But they are smarter than real people! Bring on the bombast and paragraph-long, flawless speeches.
Winner: Succession. Sorry, Billions. I love a good Chuck Rhoades literary putdown, but if you have to explain it, it’s just not as good.

Boardroom Cock Fights

Succession: Does the cock fight make the man, or the man make the cock fight? Just ask Logan Roy, because a boardroom battle royale is his form of love language. The patriarch of the Roy family walks into the doors of his mega-media company and only sees red. His closest confidants are as unprotected from his wrath as his bumbling great-nephew Greg. Let’s go through a few memorable office showdowns: When Roman takes his shirt off in the middle of a meeting, when Kendall tries to vote his dad out of the company but loses, and when Tom informs Greg of the death pit and basically murders the potential for him to not be as morally corrupt as the rest of the family.
Billions: Billions doesn’t just have dramatic boardroom fights. It has dramatic boardroom sabotages that double as break-up scenes! We remember you, Rebecca Cantu.
Winner: Succession. Watching Kendall fail at his hostile takeover has been the single most stressful moment of my entire life. I can still feel the cold sweat running down my neck.

Illegal Delicacies

Succession: Billions may have boarded the ortolan train one stop ahead of the guys on Succession, but after eating the rare bird, did the finance bros immediately go to a club, sit alone in VIP, and take swigs on Goldschläger to really seal the deal?
Billions: All I’m going to say is: Billions did ortolan before Succession. And its ortolan scene actually explains what the delicacy is (it’s not for the squeamish).
Winner: Billions. Goldschläger and ortolan go together like Wags and hug therapy.

Most Expensivest Hobbies

Succession: The wealthy know how to party. A little too much. While Kendall is a recovering drug user (who is currently using again), the aura of drug-filled parties like the one used as a venue for Tom’s bachelor party is enough to make anyone feel fucked up. Still, the Roy family is too busy deciding which of them is the most incompetent narcissistic to spend money on stuff like luxury bunkers and skincare.
Billions: Generally, the characters of Billions don’t have hobbies outside of exercise and recreational drinking. Industry and revenge never sleep — why should Bobby Axelrod? But on the rare occasion that Bobby indulges in a hobby, he does so in style. We’re talking tourist trips to space, and tennis coaching sessions from Maria Sharapova. That said, the hedonistic Wags is real expert hobbyist of Billions. His hobbies, which often get C-plots of their own, include fighting for Manhattan graveyard space, prepping a luxury apocalypse bunker, trying out for a secret society, and experimental skincare. No wonder we stan.
Winner: Billions. Dream scenario: A crossover episode in which Roman and Wags co-host the most exclusive, debauched bash of all time.

Cousin Greg

Succession: Coming in hot at 6’7, Cousin Greg’s height is almost as illegal as the going ons in Waystar’s cruise department. He’s got humor, he’s got height, and he’s...almost got clout. As (most likely) the only member of the Roy family who has ever been peer pressured into doing lines of cocaine in the back of a Brooklyn warehouse, and used a doggie bag to take home free breakroom muffins, there’s clearly no better person in the world.
Billions: Ugh, fine, you got this round.
Winner: Cousin Greg. In the immortal words of Highlander, “there can be only one.”
Congrats to Succession, the best show about the worst people. Season 2 of the series premieres on HBO Aug. 11 at 9 p.m.

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