Few TV series have been more eagerly awaited than series three of Succession. Jesse Armstrong’s drama about the odious Roy dynasty and its savage power grab returned last month after a two-year absence – partly owing to pandemic-related delays – with the show’s fanbase only growing during its hiatus.

Some devotees started “no context Succession” accounts. Others made like Logan Roy and got entrepreneurial by selling unofficial Waystar merch. And 50,000 superfans found themselves down the rabbit hole of Reddit’s TV forums, joining their fellow Succession heads for some forensic speculation.

Over the years, TV series have begun to attract increasingly detailed – and sometimes far-fetched – theories from viewers. Among them: Tony Soprano is not dead; Malcolm in the Middle grew up to be Walter White in Breaking Bad; and Friends was all a figment of a homeless Phoebe’s imagination. No split-second look or throwaway line goes unnoticed, as fans analyse episodes to back up their outlandish ideas. However, with more time on our hands during the pandemic, fan theories seem to be more popular and compelling than ever, as viewers catch up on cult programmes and play fantasy scriptwriter online.

Courteney act … Phoebe and her ‘imaginary friend’ Monica. Photograph: Getty Images

Twenty six-year-old Kevin Jones from London started watching Succession nine months ago and was quickly hooked. “I have a few friends who watch it,” he says, “but they have a limit with how much they want to talk about it. In the Reddit group, I can geek out endlessly.”

Indeed, the show’s Reddit forum is packed full of crumbs of info and illicit photos from filming (in a recent Guardian interview, the show’s writers noted that someone had even posted their lunch menu to the site). “All the rumours and theories about the new series allowed the show to continue while it wasn’t on air,” Jones says. “As well as Twitter, there’s an Instagram account called Deuxmoi – which is basically a real-life New York Gossip Girl – and there were lots of scoops on the show on there.” Jones believes that such platforms are “definitely changing how we watch TV. Part of the excitement now is the discussion during and after a show airs.”

It’s really nice to have that shared excitement and passion for something with people all around the world

Oliver Richards

As well as trying to piece together the plot from online gossip, Jones and other fans use the forum to speculate about the twists and turns that could …….