Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CHOOSING MONEY OVER POWER IS A MISTAKE ALMOST EVERYONE MAKES. MONEY IS THE BIG MANSION IN SARASOTA THAT STARTS FALLING APART AFTER TEN YEARS. POWER IS THAT OLD STONE BUILDING THAT STANDS FOR CENTURIES. I CANNOT RESPECT SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT SEE THE DIFFERENCE: We've somehow survived here without talking about Netflix's House of Cards thus far. At this point, I feel like most of the people who wanted to watch, did, and for those who didn't, let me just suggest that while it's not perfect, if you're a fan of watching Kevin Spacey at his hammiest and most cynical, plus tales of (occasionally implausible) political treachery, plus Robin Wright quietly being awesome, then it's worth committing the 13 hours (plus one month's Netflix, if you're not using it already, which you can cancel thereafter) for a fun little yarn. Spoilers below, and in the comments.

First off, I live in Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District, so it amused the hell out of me to find us at the center of the plot, though BRAC actually closed down our naval shipyard twenty years ago. Still, it had that kind of impact, and it was totally plausible as a plot point.

I think one's enjoyment of the show depends on one's appreciation of Spacey's performance -- if you don't find all the fourth-wall breaking to be engaging and smile-producing, I doubt you're even finishing the first episode. But as long as you get that far, you're likely in for the full ride. Does it all work? No. But I never wanted to stop watching.

Things I particularly enjoyed: the education bill staffers; the trips back home for Underwood and Russo; the pop-up IMs; seeing Norman Wilson from The Wire (but not the guy who played Marimow, in essentially the same douchey editor role); Gerald McRaney; its general understanding of the role of social media in contemporary politics; everything about Corey Stoll's Peter Russo.

Things which bored me: Hunky Photographer Guy, and Zoe's Decent Boyfriend. Spacey on the rowing machine.


  1. The Pathetic Earthling12:13 PM

    As always, I really must comment the original with Sir Ian Richardson as House of Commons Chief Whip Francis Urquhart. One of the things that I think fails in the new version is that I felt sorry for Peter Russo, whereas in the BBC original -- as bad a guy as FU was, you wanted him to crush everyone in his path, mercilessly and completely. Hell, by the time FU is pulling out the rat poison, you are at the edge of your chair cheering because you don't want FU found out.

    Now, Ian Richardson had played Richard III, so he was quite adept at letting the audience in on his evil plans. I don't think Spacey does that as well and it can be distracting.

    We like this version, though, and will happily watch the next 13 episodes.

  2. I think the other main difference where the original was better is that the character of Mattie Storin was sympathetic, but I found myself hating Zoe as the series progressed, such that I was bummed Spacey hasn't gotten around to throwing her off of a roof yet. I didn't understand the plot lines with Robin Wright's character, and I loved that the UK version made Francis's wife even more evil and conniving than Francis. At the same time, tThe American series was better at depicting the compromises in politics (there were real stakes in the education bill, whereas any policy in the UK version functioned as a Maguffin). I appreciate that Spacey made the character his own, and the fact he was a redneck was the right choice for American politics.

    And on this topic, any fans of Veep should check out "The Thick of It" on iTunes.

  3. The Pathetic Earthling2:10 PM

    Another, small difference: Francis Underwood doesn't seem to fear anyone at all -- save perhaps his wife. But in the original, Francis Urquhart knew damned well he needed Ben Landless, the American publisher.

  4. I generally agree with you, Adam, but we disagree about one major point: I HATED the episode about Frank's return to his old school. HATED. Also, I think you can enjoy the show even while rolling your eyes at the fourth-wall-breaking "Here's where I twist the naaaf on him," "Here's wheyah the REAL meetin' begins" stuff.

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