I had a long period of TV abstinence beginning in about 2004 (I guess it was about when I started writing here – something had to go to make time for it). But Netflix has drawn me back into fairly regular TV watching because it’s totally under my control and it makes a decent fist most of the time of alerting me to things I’d like to see.
Lots has been written about the new House of Cards which is not being shown on regular TV. It’s on Netflix-only, and the 13 episodes were released all in one go last week. Mostly though people are focusing their attention on the novelty of the release rather than the programme itself.
Which is a shame, because it’s very good. I haven’t gone full throttle into TV addiction yet so I haven’t succumbed to the temptation of just watching the whole thing in a 13-hour marathon, but I’ve managed the first three episodes and we’re getting used to the characters and seeing some of the storylines start to firm up.
I was initially disappointed to realise (it came in the first few shots when Kevin Spacey turned and started talking to camera) that it’s the Michael Dobbs/Andrew Davies House of Cards remade in today’s US political scene. Disappointed only because the original was *so* good, so captivating, so of the time and shockingly near to what we suspected the inside of party politics was like, long before The Thick of It. And because Ian Richardson was so compelling: simultaneously adorable and despicable. And because I’m rarely won over by American remakes of British TV. Where I am at the end of episode 3, Spacey hasn’t quite reached Richard III levels of despicability but he’s getting there and I fully believe that he pulls it off by Episode 13 and Robin Wright is an able Lady Macbeth. Part of the draw for me is seeing how the other recognisable characters might turn out – although it’s pretty much a question of how they will meet their various sticky ends rather that whether they do (I hope).
I like the graphic overlays that denote when people are texting each other. It lets the acting continue without cutting away to a close-up of the phone screen. I haven’t seen it done as authentically before.
It’s very interesting to see it transplanted into American politics and the DC village rather than the Westminster one. Though I am wondering why it took 23 years for this story to be acceptable to a US audience. Is American politics in a similar place now to where we were at the end of the Thatcher era? I guess there are similar levels of disillusionment with the system, but has that come about recently? Is it a new thing? If we got any faith in the system back in 1997 we’ve lost it again since.
One thing that does crop up with the all-in-one release thing is that it makes it hard to have an online social experience around it and so it’s hard to write about without some spoilers – it’s neither like a movie (which you’ve either seen or you haven’t) nor like a standard TV series (where you might allow people to be a few episodes behind, but pretty much you expect everyone to be up to date or avoiding any reviews). And of course it’s also a remake.
But do I hate spoilers so I shall wait until a significantly larger number of my friends are admitting to having seen it.