Netflix series lacks originality

February 7, 2013

House of Cards 3 1/2 out of 5 - Netflix


Contributing Editor


We all know what it is like to binge on network or cable shows like “Lost” or “Parks and Recreation,” especially with the rise of TV on DVD, (which struck my generation right around the time we hit puberty) and the gorge-fest that instant watching has become.


While some critics look at “binge-watching” as a major issue, uprooting what it even means to watch television and helping to shorten attention spans and patience, Netflix’s new original series “House of Cards” is playing to the bingers, even encouraging it.


This past week, Netflix released the political drama “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher who helmed modern classics such as “Zodiac” and “The Social Network.”


Based on the 1990 BBC show of the same name, “House of Cards” follows Francis Underwood, a member of Congress, who is shorthanded an opportunity to become Secretary of State.


Thus begins his Machiavellian attempt to become president, deceiving anyone and anything on the beltway.


The concept is simple, even though the show attempts to be complex for complexity’s sake, mirroring truly complex shows like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” with muddled dialogue and random characters thrown into the mix, “Wire” style.


Kevin Spacey’s Underwood is practically Richard III minus the curved spine, and has a very perplexing accent—slightly Elizabethan mixed with a West Texan drawl.


He is from South Carolina we find out in the second episode.


Underwood is full of asides, looks and grins that are delivered directly to the audience.


Robin Wright plays Underwood’s equally deceiving and power hungry wife, who oversees a clean water initiative, runs a lot and orders at least four decaf lattes in the first two episodes alone.


This house of cards would not be complete without the additional layer of a duplicitous young reporter (“American Horror Story’s” Kate Mara), who forms an alliance with Underwood for inside scoops.


“House of Cards” is an interesting but imperfect show that doesn’t feel too original despite the “original” way it is being released to the public.


Many of the supporting characters feel contrived and extremely one-dimensional, as does the dialogue, which is nearly all done in a flat dead-pan style and sometimes goes beyond dead and is just pan.


Sticking with “House of Cards” is not a problem, as even in the second episode, there are enough trades and jades to keep even the most non-committal viewer intrigued.


If this is Netflix’s attempt to compete with HBO or AMC though, “House of Cards” doesn’t stack up as a serious show or even one of great merit ,but it is fun nonetheless.


It is the most original, unoriginal series I have seen in a long time, and the most satisfying thing about it is that at least we know it won’t be cancelled mid-season.


The question becomes: how is one supposed to watch Netflix’s new original series “House of Cards”?


All at once? Sporadically? During a lunch break? Until the “House of Cards” hunger has been satiated? Until one is binged out? Alone? Upright? Sideways? (Show watching has never been so existential.)


While there is nothing strange about the show itself, the thing that sent me reeling was that every episode was available when I started watching.


On the same day. Every single episode—a binge-watcher’s dream.


In hindsight, I bet a lot of people wish “Dallas” would have been conceived in this same fashion.


It would have made the “Who shot J.R.?” conundrum last for five seconds instead of an entire summer.


Email comments to gpb009@latech.edu.


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