The first season of the US version of the Office is a load of rubbish.
The reason for that is because it tries to replicate the UK version’s first season line for line and it just comes across as a bland tribute act.
It was only when they started to develop their own ideas and characters that the show became enjoyable.
I bring this up because there was always the risk that a US remake of the wonderful BBC One series House of Cards could have been a huge flop.
Released by Netflix as their first major move into the TV serial market, House of Cards comprises of 13 episodes available all in one go on demand. No longer do you have to wade through commercials or endure the nonsense that is the American TV ‘break’ system where a 23 episode season is spread out over 40 weeks.
Everything has been released in bulk, in fantastic High Definition, streaming directly onto your PC, Laptop, iPad, Xbox 360 or any device you might think of.
To me, that’s a far better way of doing things. I’d rather be able to watch shows at my own convenience, and not be held to when the TV station fancies putting the show on.
And all for a mere £5 per month.
So was it any good? Did it manage to be suitably different from the original, and does it work in its own right?
What’s It About?
US Congressman and Chief Whip Francis Underwood has been passed over for Secretary of State under the new President, and so sets the wheels in motion to get the power he wants, his way.
Some of the pawns he uses to get what he wants include journalist Zoe Barnes, Philadelphia Congressman Peter Russo, his own wife Clare, the Teachers Union and many more.
Thoughts – Is It Different Enough?
The simple answer is yes.
There are of course similarities that you would spot at first, like how Francis takes a young and eager reporter under his wing, and has a member of his own party under his complete control, but as the season develops it begins to shine as a TV show in its own right as opposed to a cheap knock-off.
Obviously with 13 episodes instead of 4 it allows a lot more character development, not just of the lead but of the supporting characters like his wife or his second in command and so it plays out as more of a long game.
With stellar acting from all concerned – especially from Kevin Spacey as Underwood – and strong plots that give a perhaps more realistic view of the gritty world of US politics than an aspirational show like the West Wing, this was enjoyable Political Drama from beginning to end.
If I was to criticise it for anything though, it would be that there seemed to be less of a need for Spacey breaking the fourth wall and talking to the camera.
While Ian Richardson’s Francis Urquhart was ultimately more sinister, he had a certain mischievous nature to him that led the viewer to feeling as though they are part of the scheme. Here, it just felt like Underwood was a bit of a bastard, and his talking to camera was more to stick to the established format. At one point he just turned to the camera and said “I hate children”, which was a bit b00-hiss for the sake of being boo-hiss, if you know what I mean.
Also, while I believe many of Underwood’s relationships were far better represented here than in the UK version – like with his wife and his peers – the one he has with Zoe Barnes isn’t as strong as the one Urquhart had with Mattie Storrin.
But those are just minor complaints in what I found a gripping and highly entertaining 13 episodes of TV, with the promise of more to come..
Should You Subscribe To NetFlix for House of Cards?
Though I imagine it will probably be available through less than honourable means, for most of us, House of Cards comes at the price of subscribing to NetFlix.
But then NetFlix does only cost £5 per month (without a contract) and has a multitude of other TV shows and films available on demand as well.
When you consider that costs less than a cinema ticket, I think it goes without saying that it provides bang for your buck.
You should definitely give it a chance.
Moreover, you can even watch the first episode for free on the NetFlix website – linked here
You can’t say fairer than that.