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February 3, 2013 2:57 PM   Subscribe

House of Cards is a new original "TV" series that is not destined for any TV distribution channel. Instead, it was developed by, and is only available through, Netflix. Netflix posted the entire first "season," 13 1-hour episodes, on Friday. (Is this the new thing?) Some of us, cough, watched the whole thing.

It's a political thriller with a pitch-black cynicism. Kevin Spacey stars as a congressional powerbroker who gets the short end of a deal and decides to go into business for himself. The show follows his machinations as he pulls more and more people into his orbit. Some will rise to power. Others will lose everything. David Fincher is executive producer and directed the first two hours. Adapted by Beau Willimon from a novel and earlier miniseries set in the Commons in Britain. Spacey and Fincher spoke with Dave Davies on NPR's Fresh Air.
posted by grobstein (106 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like how of all the words in quotation marks, 'original' isn't one of them. It's a remake.
posted by hoyland at 3:04 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is based on an old BBC series from 1990. I don't know how much it resembles it though.
posted by dng at 3:05 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never saw the original series, but the sequel, To Play the King was excellent. I especially liked the asides to the audience.
posted by jb at 3:07 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Checkmate.
posted by BeeDo at 3:10 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Spacey will be hard tasked to top Ian Richardson from the original in the title role...
posted by jim in austin at 3:10 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just finished episode 6 in my weekend marathon. Loving it!
posted by The Deej at 3:11 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm a fan of the BBC original and just finished up watching the 13th episode of the new one on Netflix. "Remake" doesn't quite cover it -- it's a pretty free adaptation, and one that works well in the very different context of US politics. I thought it was excellent throughout.
posted by Kinbote at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


jb, the original first BBC series is the best of the three . To Play the King is pretty good, the last one, The Final Cut is a bit iffy. (here are the first 5 minutes of the 1st series of the BBC's House of Cards. It begins with the aftermath of the fall of Margaret Thatcher, which hadn't happened when the first episode was broadcast, but, in an amazing piece of marketing, Maggie's ousting from the Conservative Party leadership and job of Prime Minister actually did happen in real life during the first series' original run)
posted by Bwithh at 3:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spacey will be hard tasked to top Ian Richardson from the original in the title role...

You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

No worries, Spacey makes the role his own, right from the first scene of the first episode. ((shudder))
posted by Kinbote at 3:23 PM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


Huh. I knew Beau Willimon in grade school. I was friends with his brother. Crazy! And apparently he was nominated for an Oscar last year.
posted by zsazsa at 3:30 PM on February 3, 2013


You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Heh! I believe Richardson to be the epitome of double-talking smarm and venomous charm. As much as I like Spacey I can't see him topping Ian but perhaps bending the role to his own particular strengths. I will enjoy it none the less...
posted by jim in austin at 3:35 PM on February 3, 2013


No worries, Spacey makes the role his own, right from the first scene of the first episode. ((shudder))
posted by Kinbote at 3:23 PM on February 3 [+] [!]


That actually reminded me of a scene from the Graham Greene short story "Two Gentle People", where a similar incident is taken as sign of compassionate grown-up maturity and being brought up well. But the show soon camped up his ruthless side, after about half an hour of whining and even some Brigitte Nyborg-esque shades of innocence.
posted by Bwithh at 3:42 PM on February 3, 2013


Looking forward to watching this. Loved the original BBC series.
posted by arcticseal at 3:42 PM on February 3, 2013


I got my hands on the original a few months ago... Rather excellent!

And yet... Kevin Spacey, F'yeah! Richardson was arguably made for that role... but this is a different beast, and Spacey will undoubtedly make this his role, like he has pretty much every other role where he has ever played a badass.
posted by markkraft at 3:44 PM on February 3, 2013


This related article popped up a couple of days ago.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:45 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm about half-way through and I've been pretty impressed so far. I do, however, wish they'd dropped the fourth-wall-breaking narration. I don't think it adds anything to the story that couldn't be conveyed in a more deft manner through dialogue and action.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Netflix sent me a helpful email and I dutifully added it to my instant queue. It is currently sitting at something like 270, so maybe next year sometime. Yeah, my instant queue is no longer instant but indeed better tools to track this shit. I really liked the BBC series so maybe just this once I'll bump it to the top. I mean Kevin Spacey is in it.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:49 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm about half-way through and I've been pretty impressed so far. I do, however, wish they'd dropped the fourth-wall-breaking narration. I don't think it adds anything to the story that couldn't be conveyed in a more deft manner through dialogue and action.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:48 PM on February 3 [+] [!]


The fourth wall breaking was a crucial part of the BBC original ( it had the effect, for instance of making the villain protagonist seem a bit mad but also that you were in his confidences and were complicit in his scheming ) which itself was heavily influenced by the soliloquys and scheming of Richard III in Shakespeare's play of the same name. Spacey has played Richard III in the theatre and has toured internationally with that role even, which is probably one key reason why he came to this part in the Netflix version
posted by Bwithh at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is exactly what people claim they want; shows which do not require a traditional distribution channel. Let's see if people meant what they said! Assuming it doesn't suck. I haven't seen it yet, will watch later today and tomorrow.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2013


"I do, however, wish they'd dropped the fourth-wall-breaking narration."

Exactly as Bwithh says... and also, don't discount the effect of sharing his mindset. You'll be silently rooting for the bastard, as things go on.

It's interesting to note that Kevin Spacey has also done other online roles... last year, he was a pirate dentist!
posted by markkraft at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2013


Well, Netflix will also have the new Arrested Development in a short while. So if people didn't mean what they said with this, they likely will come out of the woodwork for that.
posted by hippybear at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2013


So, you need a Netflix subscription to view it?
posted by Ardiril at 4:07 PM on February 3, 2013


So, you need a Netflix subscription to view it?

You might very well think so ...
posted by maudlin at 4:09 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I mean you're always going to have to pay somebody to get shows legitimately. Since it costs money to make shows. This one is available to anyone with an internet connection.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


We are talking about paywalled content then.
posted by Ardiril at 4:13 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes.
posted by hippybear at 4:14 PM on February 3, 2013


The first episode is online free on the netflix site for anyone in the US ( doesn't work on iPad though)
posted by Bwithh at 4:16 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've only seen the first episode, but I'm intrigued. I could do without Spacey monologuing to camera but then again it is Spacey monologuing so it's not all bad.
posted by robcorr at 4:16 PM on February 3, 2013


It's worth remembering that the BBC "original" was an adaptation of a novel. The novel is the original.

I'm a huge fan of the Richardson series, although I agree it faltered a bit in the third round. It was one of those things where everything it really wanted to say about politics was accomplished in the first one, so where could you go from there?

(I will insert here a plug for my other favorite British political thriller, The Politician's Wife. It's not well known but it is fantastic, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys either version of HoC. Apparently there's a Tennant/Watson sequel in the works reversing the genders.)

I have to agree that the fourth wall breaking was an essential aspect of the BBC production, echoing the narrator's voice in the books, and allowing for some explication of the hidden political importance of things like party whips or party conferences that might be inscrutable even to an average British viewer. I don't know how successful the Fincher/Spacey production is at carrying this out, though. The beautiful thing about the novels was that they were a straight from the horse's mouth blast of political cynicism -- the author, Michael Dobbs (now Baron Dobbs), had worked at the Conservative Party headquarters, and later (after the books!) served as Deputy Chairman of the Tories. The effect is of a secret history, of confidences shared.

Ardiril, you need to at least sign up for the Netflix "free month" offer, which of course will be plenty to watch the entire first series. Naturally, they hope you will find the service indispensable before it expires.
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Technically, any movie, show, book, musical, etc. is paywalled content.
posted by echo target at 4:20 PM on February 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


I was thinking the same thing.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on February 3, 2013


I think of direct address as a hallmark of "British cool" movies. Alfie, The Ialian Job, the much maligned The Knack and How to Get It. I always think any british movie that employes it, like 24 Hour Party People, is riffing on those movies, providing an alternate Alfie. This may be confirmation bias though.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2013


Big fan of the book and the Richardson version, and after 7 episodes this is holding up pretty well. It's definitely too novel to be a remake, and it's lovely to see a simultaneous transatlantic release for once. Off to watch the next one... :)
posted by cromagnon at 4:24 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm aware the BBC series used the narration technique, though I've only seen one or two episodes, so I can't really comment on how well it complimented the show. For the US version, though, I feel like it breaks up the flow of the story without adding anything of value. The cynicism and charming villainy of Spacey's character is apparent enough through his interactions with the other characters; it doesn't seem necessary to bludgeon the audience with cackling asides of look-how-evil-I-am-heh-heh-heh. Shakespearean homages notwithstanding, I personally think the series would be better off without it. The quality of the writing is otherwise quite excellent though.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:25 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved the original series. I don't know if it's because I just don't know that much about Parliament or because I'm so much more invested in American politics (or both) but this version seems so fucking cynical it's kind of bumming me out. I'm six episodes in and will probably finish in the next few days, but I'm just having a slighter harder time enjoying the sheer entertainment value of it. The only thing about the production that's really bothering me is that Kevin Spacey's "fourth-wall" dialogue seems excessive and too expository, but in my book watching Kevin Spacey is almost always worth my time.

One interesting point I've seen mentioned is how this type of distribution will impact all the recap blogs. I know there are a few shows, like Breaking Bad, that I really enjoy following up on every week, and I would miss some of the communities that have sprung up. This is especially true for shows like Justified, which none of my friends watch.

Fun Fact: Ian Richardson is the Grey Poupon guy!
posted by Room 641-A at 4:27 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whoever coined the Netflix sound-bite "We're trying to become HBO faster than HBO can become us" has to be pretty happy with how universally that appeared in this weekend's articles about their move into producing "original" content. (And yeah, kind of a dumb move for a very recognizable remake to be their first move into that domain; watching this show is a little like watching a talented cover band.)

It's really hard to imagine someone signing up for Netflix because of this show — despite the passable execution (oh how I ended up wishing they spent more of the reported $100MM budget on writing), high production values, and headline talent, it's not the kind of thing that inspires more than passing interest, much less a cult following. The Arrested Development deal makes a lot more sense — if Netflix is the Internet's TV channel, it should be producing more content that the Internet will really be passionate about. Another series of Firefly, or a new David Simon vehicle, or something like that.
posted by RogerB at 4:28 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think of direct address as a hallmark of "British cool" movies

Obviously I'm talking about the BBC version, which doesn't actually apply here. Ima quit blathering and watch the fucking thing.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:32 PM on February 3, 2013


Well, let's not forget that it was years of experimentation before HBO managed to hit it out of the park time after time with The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and so forth. Netflix will need to amass a similarly reliable record. Remember Tanner '88? Yup, as admired as that was, hardly anybody really does.
posted by dhartung at 4:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched the first two episodes. I can't decide if it's silly but entertaining or just plain silly. The interactions between the main guy and his wife are particularly weird.
posted by anaximander at 4:40 PM on February 3, 2013


And yeah, kind of a dumb move for a very recognizable remake to be their first move into that domain; watchiing this show is a little like watching a talented cover band

Netflix aired the original series Lillehammer in 2012. They released all the episodes simultaneously, as they did with House of Cards
posted by layceepee at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Paywalled content? What's that?! Is that like any show on British television, for example, or any of the series on paid cable, where some people choose to pay money to watch something, while other people don't?

"It seems that this is an opportunity... for the film and television industry to learn a lesson for the music industry didn't learn, which is give the audience what they want when they want it, at a reasonable price, in a form they want it in, and they'll buy it and they won't steal it."


Yeah. You'd think that, wouldn't you?!

So, here's a question for any of you who left Netflix... are you really willing to pay more than before, in order to have access to a streamed version of this show? Is this the form you want the program in? Or would you rather have an actual copy of the show? If so, are you willing to wait for a DVD/BluRay release?
posted by markkraft at 4:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finished the marathon in time for the Superbowl. *Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers*

There seemed to be some flaws about the political process. The plot scheme of the Chinese trade treaties is outside the purview of the House of Representatives. Also, the absence of the Senate in all this plotting seemed odd except when Senator Kern got sunk by Underwood.
posted by jadepearl at 4:50 PM on February 3, 2013


I watched some eight episodes this weekend. I thought it was quite good and won't disappoint the fans of the original series, which is also very good. There are some plot twists that are absurd, but if you suspend disbelief for a bit it won't get in the way of your enjoyment.

A question for American viewers - do people in South Carolina really speak with that accent?
posted by gertzedek at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2013


I just checked and when a disc-only Netflix subscriber searches for 'house of cards', there's no indication that this thing even exists. Doh. Oh well, I guess the alternative would be that they would relentlessly promote their streaming service to me, and that would be worse.
posted by jepler at 4:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


WTF -- Netflix Canada, that truncated abomination, is actually streaming this?

I'm partway through the first episode, have no problems with Spacey talking to the camera (or the wee graphic indication of a text being received), and am enthralled with Buttercup as Lady Macbeth. (I know that Wright has done many things since The Princess Bride, and she's a fine actress, but it's still jarring to me.)

Spacey's accent does seem to come and go: heavy in the opening scenes, practically gone in the scene with the gatekeeper, and still faded when he gets home. Are my ears bad, is Spacey being inconsistent (seems unlikely), or is this just a private versus public voice? If the latter, and if all the camera-talk is with a heavy accent, he really isn't inviting us in as confidantes, but is putting on another show.
posted by maudlin at 4:57 PM on February 3, 2013


I'll fess up. I watched the whole thing this weekend. (I slept through a few episodes, but then I just backtracked.) Thanks for enabling my bingewatching, Netlfix.

Is there any significance to some characters using Blackberries and others using iPhones? I confess, I may have slept through the explication. Or maybe a Blackberry is just a Blackberry?
posted by Fichereader at 5:00 PM on February 3, 2013


The plot scheme of the Chinese trade treaties is outside the purview of the House of Representatives.

I figured they were taking the "House" of Cards literally, and confining our attention to the House. I was perfectly willing to suspend disbelief.
posted by Fichereader at 5:02 PM on February 3, 2013


The original BBC series (although not To Play The King) is on Netflix too, so you could top off watching the whole remake version with the four parts of the 1990 Ian Richardson. Which perhaps I did this weekend. The US remake... well, it's an above-competent American political thriller with a couple of quirks; over-long with pacing issues but engaging enough. The original, though, is a joy, with lovely writing, top notch acting and real momentum. Richardson even does a split-second switch into Richard III at one point.

One thing got me, though; the plot in both (and it is fun drawing the similarities and the changes; the remake keeps a surprising amount of the original, although not always in the same places) depends at one point on a reporter not telling their editor who a source is. Nah. A hot and dangerous story? You damn well tell your editor where you got it from, or it ain't going in.

The text overlay to show in-phone action; I first saw that in Sherlock. Can it be further antedated?
posted by Devonian at 5:03 PM on February 3, 2013


A question for American viewers - do people in South Carolina really speak with that accent?

It's a little exaggerated. Here's Ernest Fritz, an actual former congressman from South Carolina.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I was dubious, this thread won me over, then I discovered that it's apparently only available on streaming. Oh, Netflix!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on February 3, 2013


I loved the original, and I loved when Richardson played DEATH he used the line "you'd like to think so, but I couldn't possibly comment."

Hm. No netflix here at chez maxwelton. I also need another time sink like I need jock itch.

Hm.
posted by maxwelton at 5:13 PM on February 3, 2013


well if you're wondering if it's available through other means, but are too lazy to go look, I've done that for you, and of course it is. Guess I have to watch it now.
posted by hap_hazard at 5:20 PM on February 3, 2013


Fun Fact: Ian Richardson is the Grey Poupon guy!
posted by Room 641-A at 4:27 PM on February 3 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Room 641-A, the other guy in that ad is Paul Eddington, another well-known figure of British fictional political TV - he was the hapless minister in those classics of British political satire, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister !
posted by Bwithh at 5:30 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm asking for too much, but doesn't anyone else think the portrayal of issues and politics in the show is pretty clownish? I simply don't buy that an education bill is likely to cause the level of consternation portrayed in the first couple of episodes, or that the editorial staff of the newspaper would be breathlessly monitoring web traffic.

I think the acting is top notch but the writers are losing me in the suspension-of-disbelief category.
posted by hwestiii at 5:41 PM on February 3, 2013


I simply don't buy that an education bill is likely to cause the level of consternation portrayed in the first couple of episodes

We've been living through attacks on teachers (and other public servants engaged in collective bargaining) in Ohio and Wisconsin. Not comical, at all, given the protests at statehouses in the last few years. A House of Cards episode even had a protestor holding the Wisconsin "fist" sign. I'd call that timely.
posted by Fichereader at 5:47 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


[...]enthralled with Buttercup as Lady Macbeth. (I know that Wright has done many things since The Princess Bride, and she's a fine actress, but it's still jarring to me.)

Oh my god how did I watch that whole thing and not notice it was Buttercup?!?
posted by jason_steakums at 5:51 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fichereader, I take your point, but I don't see that type of dynamic at work at all in the episodes I've seen. I realize that this is not supposed to be "ripped from the headlines", but the characters as written are still a bit too cartoony for my liking.
posted by hwestiii at 6:20 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm switching back and forth between this and West Wing, which makes for a weird optimism/cynicism contrast.
posted by brundlefly at 6:25 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I watched the first two episodes last night and don't understand how some of you powered through all 13 at once. It's very, very good, but also very, very intense and depressing. I watched MLP afterward because I needed an alicorn chaser.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess the alternative would be that they would relentlessly promote their streaming service to me, and that would be worse.

Ironically, I was a logged in subscriber and the entire page for the series fails to show the "add to queue" button, as if I'm going to watch it all on my computer. I had to go out and hover over the title on my recommendations to add it just to get it onto the TV interface. So, all props for their disc logistics, but Netflix has a few things to learn about UI (and yes, I know they used to have a much more robust web experience, so I assume they fired all the guys and gals who know how to wrangle that stuff).
posted by dhartung at 6:48 PM on February 3, 2013


I simply don't buy that an education bill is likely to cause the level of consternation portrayed in the first couple of episodes

We've been living through attacks on teachers (and other public servants engaged in collective bargaining) in Ohio and Wisconsin. Not comical, at all, given the protests at statehouses in the last few years. A House of Cards episode even had a protestor holding the Wisconsin "fist" sign. I'd call that timely.
posted by Fichereader at 5:47 PM on February 3 [+] [!]


***WONKISH SPOILER ALERT*** The leaked education draft bill that causes a scandal in Ep.1 calls for an expansion of federal spending on education from ~10% of the total national public education spending ( i.e. including state governments) to ~30%, tied to a range of new federal regulations and controls on how states run their education systems. This is seen as "far left" and causes a scandal for the moderate-branded Prez, who was actually intending the lefty bill to be watered down hugely first so that he could ram it through Congress in his first 100 days
posted by Bwithh at 6:49 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm switching back and forth between this and West Wing, which makes for a weird optimism/cynicism contrast.

It's kind of funny that David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin got together to work on something and it wasn't this.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've watched 7 eps so far and it's pretty damn good, I think.
posted by dobbs at 6:54 PM on February 3, 2013


Spolier, but not an important one, below:

Here's a question for people who have watched this already. Was there any explanation for why Underwood had his hand wrapped up in a bandage? This was at the beginning of episode 6 or 7. I believe it's the one after he visits his old school.
posted by sideshow at 7:20 PM on February 3, 2013


"We're trying to become HBO faster than HBO can become us"

If it forces HBO to offer HBO Go without a cable sub I'm all for this.
posted by Talez at 7:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just saw the first episode... I'm guessing "cards" refers to teh one dimensionality of the characters?
posted by Catblack at 7:29 PM on February 3, 2013


This series is excellent and everything I'd hoped it would be, what with the fine original hovering for months in my queue for rewatching. You can nitpick the finer points to death, but overall the writing, acting, atmospherics and politicking are convincing and compelling. After only the first episode, I was much impressed with Kate Mara's ability to hold her own. She's got some chops.
posted by kemrocken at 7:36 PM on February 3, 2013


Hmmmm. I'm a couple episodes and I'm feeling like they should have spent more of that $100million budget on script rewrites, smoothing out the clunkiness and odd structrure. What did they blow all that $$$ on anyway?


PS anyone have any idea what the deal was with the cops and the broken down/junky car and the grungy guy right at the end of Ep 1? I haven't the foggiest-bottomiest idea...
posted by Bwithh at 7:45 PM on February 3, 2013


I presumed it was the guy who hit the dog in the opening scene.
posted by maudlin at 7:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it difficult to believe that anyone saying the characters are one-dimensional has watched more than a single episode.

And Robin Wright's performance is really a standout.
posted by sutt at 8:17 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was there any explanation for why Underwood had his hand wrapped up in a bandage?

Russo's son causes him to spill coffee on himself in the previous episode.
posted by Kinbote at 8:18 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Russo's son causes him to spill coffee on himself in the previous episode.

Damn, I can't believe I forgot that! And I just watched it a few hours ago.
posted by sutt at 8:22 PM on February 3, 2013


Did the whole thing this weekend. Any confirmation on a second season?
posted by Damienmce at 8:59 PM on February 3, 2013


That's my question about this whole internet TV series thing. If you are going to release 12 episodes at a time, most people aren't going to watch them over 12 weeks. So then, what's the cycle? How often am I to expect more? Surely there's some sort of window of relevance for a TV show before people lose interest.
posted by WASP-12b at 9:14 PM on February 3, 2013


Any confirmation on a second season?

Netflix committed to two 13 episode seasons when they announced the project. The second season of 13 episodes will air stream at a TBD date in 2014 but probably around this time next year.
posted by birdherder at 9:22 PM on February 3, 2013


Looks like second season was always part of the deal.

"Part of that initial deal includes another unparalleled opportunity. Rather than the House of Cards team producing a few episodes, waiting for them to air, then worrying about cancellation, it has an unprecedented commitment from Netflix. Twenty-six episodes upfront."
posted by merelyglib at 9:24 PM on February 3, 2013


Grah. Meant to add this to above.

"Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC production also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher. Therefore, concluded Netflix executives, a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer, to the point that the company committed $100 million for two 13-episode seasons."
posted by merelyglib at 9:27 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


WTF -- Netflix Canada, that truncated abomination, is actually streaming this?

I have Netflix in Canada. I also get the American version for an extra 5 bucks a month with an unblocking service. The thing that makes it cool is that the Canadian version actually has quite a few movies and series the American one doesn't so you end up with both for no extra cost besides the 5 bucks.
This week I've been watching Fringe and SG1 which I can't get in the American version.
posted by Jalliah at 9:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's my question about this whole internet TV series thing. If you are going to release 12 episodes at a time, most people aren't going to watch them over 12 weeks. So then, what's the cycle? How often am I to expect more? Surely there's some sort of window of relevance for a TV show before people lose interest.

That's a good question. Since getting Netflix I've found my viewing habits and desires changing. There are dozens of series that I didn't watch when they were on tv. I'm finding that I now prefer to watch a series I like in a block and am finding the weekly shows on tv almost annoying because a I have to wait. It's especially irritating with shows that have long term story arcs. Watching those types in a bloc is worth the wait in my books.

There are a couple of series that are on currently where the first few seasons are on netflix and I'm not even bothering to watch them. I'd rather wait until they come out in a block even if that means I'll be behind. That or I'm taping them and archiving them on an external hard drive to watch in a bunch later on. I've also found myself skipping weekly viewings and watching several episodes at once straight off of network websites. Most seem to offer 3 weeks worth at one time.
posted by Jalliah at 9:48 PM on February 3, 2013


So then, what's the cycle? How often am I to expect more? Surely there's some sort of window of relevance for a TV show before people lose interest.

Well, that's the money quote, isn't it? Netflix is betting that people will hang around for S2 and/or start browsing the other available options. More broadly, they're betting that people will want to subscribe to their internet service rather than a cable service that includes HBO.

It's maddening for those of us who still dream of an open internet with anything clickable anywhere, even for a rental fee, but both Netflix and HBO have stakes in this game that are pretty deep. Netflix sees the end of the thing that they are really really good at and have an unparalleled full investment in, i.e. the flying DVD service, and are moving into an area where the barriers to entry are much lower and the only real advantage comes from first mover status. You could say this is the only, uh, card they can play.

As to the more esoteric question of the "full drop" approach, they're also betting that their viewership figures show lots and lots of subscribers watching shows in marathon or binge mode. That's not the way I watch (I hate it when everything just blends together), but it seems to be the way a lot of Netflix customers play it.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 PM on February 3, 2013


Why is Episode 3 like a rejected Parks & Recreation script with the aim of being funny removed?
posted by Bwithh at 10:21 PM on February 3, 2013


Some of us never signed up for Netflix until they offered a streaming-only plan. Can't beat the return-on-investment I get for that less-than-$10-a-month, especially since I cancelled cable/sat TV a couple of years ago.
posted by mrbill at 10:29 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


so far, netflix streaming has been responsible for trapping me within the worlds of the following programs:

Revenge
Downton Abbey
Touch
(some new Fox show about an autistic kid with Kiefer Sutherland idek)
Parks and Recreation (it is not possible for a sitcom about rural Indiana goverment to be that good)
Workaholics
(season 2 is so long overdue on netflix, wtffffff)

i stopped watching live TV a long time ago, but this kind of bingeing on TV programming feels like a relapse to me. good and bad I guess.

also, I had seen promos for this new series and had no idea Fincher was involved. and I just listened to the NPR interview.. I was going to ignore this series but now I think I see where this is going..
posted by ninjew at 11:02 PM on February 3, 2013


I'm on episode 8 now. It is certainly watchable but I'm not dying to see more. I'm not going to stay up the rest of the night to finish it the way I would do with a season of Breaking Bad.

I'm a binge watcher too, if they made it available a weeks at a time I'll just wait 13 weeks so I can watch it in one go. For people who don't watch it that way it doesn't even matter, watch it an episode at a time whenever you feel like it. As for stringing people along for 13 weeks to keep them subscribed, I think that doesn't really work for an on demand model, you could just subscribe for 14 weeks from now and watch them all for 1/13 the price.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:56 PM on February 3, 2013


For a work of fiction, this show has the Washington elite down cold.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Woke up Saturday morning, subscribed and powered through all 13 in a day. I am incredibly fond of the original BBC adaptation and this by comparison seems bloated and overweight with mid-season filler episodes that leave out key characters. I want to complain about Robin Wright's character being watered-down but don't want to give away any spoilers. I could watch Spacey be evil to camera all day though (and did!)
posted by Molesome at 1:28 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anyone tell me how clean House of Cards is? Lots of cursing? Nudity? Graphic violence? In other words, is it family-friendly or Sopranos/Wire-level TV-MA material?
posted by exhilaration at 6:50 AM on February 4, 2013


I just checked and when a disc-only Netflix subscriber searches for 'house of cards', there's no indication that this thing even exists. Doh.

Yes. We haven't made the switch to streaming yet, still saving up for the equipment, and it seems odd to me that they would not make this available to their disc subscribers at some later date. Why not a save button? I was not going to get the series from another source because I wanted to encourage Netflix to do more original programming, but how long do I have to wait for it?

On the side-topic of block viewing, I have to say we hardly ever watch anything one week at a time. Once you experience being immersed, you never go back! Right now I'm waiting to collect all the episodes before watching Mr. Selfridge, Call the Midwife 2, and Ripper Street.

On the topic of Netflix, I would like to suggest that they offer more foreign TV. This is the most exciting change to our TV viewing, I think, having access to series like Engranges which taught me a lot about the French justice system. I want to see more from the rest of the world.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:22 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Exhilaration, I'm about halfway through and so far there has been some brief nudity, some cursing, hardly any violence.
posted by mikeweeney at 7:27 AM on February 4, 2013


Can anyone tell me how clean House of Cards is? Lots of cursing? Nudity? Graphic violence? In other words, is it family-friendly or Sopranos/Wire-level TV-MA material?

I would say it's firmly in the TV-MA zone. Not all that much cursing, mostly offscreen violence, but the sexual content gets fairly graphic and there a lot of "adult themes" involved that are definitely not family-friendly.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:50 AM on February 4, 2013


I would say it's firmly in the TV-MA zone. Not all that much cursing, mostly offscreen violence, but the sexual content gets fairly graphic and there a lot of "adult themes" involved that are definitely not family-friendly.

That's good news.
posted by eas98 at 9:13 AM on February 4, 2013


I have Netflix in Canada. I also get the American version for an extra 5 bucks a month with an unblocking service.

Wait, are you subscribed to both Netflix US and Netflix Canada? Or are you saying that if you're subscribed to Netflix in one country, you can watch the local selection of any other country it operates in, if your IP address seems to originate there? Because that would be rather neat.
posted by cerbous at 7:15 PM on February 4, 2013


Yes, tell me more about this dual zone Netflix.
posted by arcticseal at 7:19 PM on February 4, 2013


Can anyone tell me how clean House of Cards is? Lots of cursing? Nudity? Graphic violence? In other words, is it family-friendly or Sopranos/Wire-level TV-MA material?

I agree with what others have said, and without going into the specifics of what may or may not be appropriate for kids, overall I think it's really just too dark. I'm finding it surprisingly disturbing, and I'm not exactly the most sensitive person when it comes to this kind of thing.

I'm not saying you need to be sugarcoating things for mature kids, but I can't see any benefit to letting them watch it. There aren't going to be any teachable moments here.

I want to complain about Robin Wright's character being watered-down but don't want to give away any spoilers.

Thank you. I wasn't sure if I was remembering correctly.

For a work of fiction, this show has the Washington elite down cold.

It's very interesting that in the original the characters were Conservative Party members but in this version they are Democrats. I think it's much more effective, especially since this isn't really about party rivalry. I find myself a little taken aback when I'm reminded that these are supposed to be the "good guys."
posted by Room 641-A at 7:45 PM on February 4, 2013


"We're trying to become HBO faster than HBO can become us"

If it forces HBO to offer HBO Go without a cable sub I'm all for this.


I have that same hope, but HBO seems aufully stubborn. I don't have cable TV because I don't like commercials so I use Netflix and iTunes. Disturbingly ads are now creeping into iTunes. For example Archer has ads for other FX shows before and after episodes and at about $50 for a season that is pretty unacceptable.

I wonder if we will have a bunch of big players which each have some exclusive shows not available on cable. That could be a worse situation than cable as subscribing to all would be more expensive and more confusing than cable. The hope of cord cutters is paying for content they want without ads, but this could get out of hand. There might be different hardware requirements as well. Imagine if Amazon, Hulu, Google / YouTube, and who knows who else - networks like Showtime or maybe devices like Roku - each have a service with exclusive shows? And then each requires you use their device, or only devices they partner with.

I do like that Netflix isn't sticking to prescribed episode times, or building episodes around needing commercial breaks. I'll check out this show and am very excited about arrested development.
posted by ridogi at 9:38 PM on February 4, 2013


Wait, are you subscribed to both Netflix US and Netflix Canada? Or are you saying that if you're subscribed to Netflix in one country, you can watch the local selection of any other country it operates in, if your IP address seems to originate there? Because that would be rather neat.

I just have one subscription. If I turn the unblock thingy on (just click the icon) the American version pops up. Keep it off and I get the Canadian. I don't even have to relog just refresh the page. I'd expect it would work with other countries as I know people use the unblock thing to watch stuff from Britain.

It's also great because I can watch any of the network shows that are blocked in Canada and get Pandora. I was so upset when they had to change to only streaming in the states.
posted by Jalliah at 7:11 AM on February 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any confirmation on a second season?

Yup, there's the 26 episode commitment, and they've broadcast the first 13.

IMHO, Netflix ought to be releasing a new episode each week, just like the networks. They will suffer from a lack of Nielsen-measurable ratings, if they dump all 13 episodes at once. They may not be interested in gaming any advertising rates, but they probably would like to see how their shows rate against premium and network fare, in terms of week-to-week viewers.

I found 13 episodes a little long, if even a little padded. The first 6 or 7 were great, and then there's a bit of a slog toward the end of the parenthetical season. Keeping things tight justifies appointment-style television; binge-releases only encourage sloppy viewing habits.

This miniseries reminds me of my response to the original, 23 years ago. i am happy to see that Fincher and Willimon regarded the depth of the story one of it's assets. And by 'depth', I mean the network of connections between all of the characters.

HoC-1990 struck me as a more efficient machine than any Robert Altman movie. Then again, this ambitious 13-hour running time is a strain for the audience. It is nice that Willimon is sometimes able to reference Watergate or the catalogue of events that have occurred since 1990.

On view 2.5, though -- there are some really terrific moments in this show! Recommended.
posted by vhsiv at 4:57 AM on February 6, 2013


Talk about rubbing salt into the wound! Yesterday we got a disc in the mail and guess what they were advertising on the inside flap? Yeah, that's right. The show that is not available to their disc subscribers.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:48 PM on February 7, 2013


Just finished watching. There's a second season planned, right? Because if not, that was the worst goddamn ending I've seen to a TV show in history ever. Worse than the end of LOST.

And if there IS a second season planned, then that was the worst goddamn cliffhanger ending I've seen to a TV show season in history ever. Worse than the end of season one of LOST.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2013


The last two episodes were 2/3rds just "journalists figuring out the secret conspiracy WE'VE BEEN WATCHING DEVELOP THE WHOLE TIME", in agonizingly slow real-time. AND THEY DON'T EVEN FIGURE THE WHOLE THING OUT. It's like, they get halfway through figuring things out, and then they're like, "Shit, we haven't figured this all out yet!", even though they've spent TWO FIFTY MINUTE EPISODES FIGURING IT OUT, and then House of Cards is like KEVIN SPACEY IS OUT JOGGING WITH HIS WIFE BOOM CREDITS. That is literally the ending. That is actually how it ends.

Add that to how the first half of the show was lots of intricate political funny-duddying and the second half was a mix of YOU DON'T REALLY LOVE ME KEVIN/I WANT A BABY/I AM JUST THE SEX-CRAZE-EST IDIOT POLITICIAN ON THE PLANET and you have a show that's probably worth just avoiding. The episode with Frank's alma mater and Peter's return to Philly was damn good TV, but if you get that far into House of Cards (8-9 episodes) then you'll convince yourself the show is worth finishing and then you will hate yourself. So just pretend like that episode didn't happen.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:52 PM on February 7, 2013


The last two episodes were 2/3rds just "journalists figuring out the secret conspiracy WE'VE BEEN WATCHING DEVELOP THE WHOLE TIME", in agonizingly slow real-time. AND THEY DON'T EVEN FIGURE THE WHOLE THING OUT. It's like, they get halfway through figuring things out, and then they're like, "Shit, we haven't figured this all out yet!", even though they've spent TWO FIFTY MINUTE EPISODES FIGURING IT OUT, and then House of Cards is like KEVIN SPACEY IS OUT JOGGING WITH HIS WIFE BOOM CREDITS. That is literally the ending. That is actually how it ends.


I don't think this critique is quite right. I feel like you are suggesting the "journalists-unraveling-the-plot" storyline is redundant because the plot was completely exposed to us from the beginning. And while I agree that that puts a ceiling on how much unraveling we should have to watch, the unraveling is still really tense, because we are in suspense about how far the journalists will get (and by extension how much Kevin Spacey will get away with), because of the double-agent-like qualities of the evil cub reporter, etc.

I'm definitely hanging from the end-of-season cliff, too, but I don't particularly resent it.

Also spoiler alert I guess.
posted by grobstein at 7:06 PM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't have a problem with the journalists storyline either. The one bit I really thought was unnecessary was (SPOILER) the hospital scene with the former bodyguard on his deathbed. Everything you learn about Claire in that scene you learn elsewhere (she is just as cruel as her husband and they have an open relationship), and the scene tosses in an unnecessary creepy deathbed handjob to boot.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2013


Hmm, I kind of see that as an end in itself. I relish the unnecessarily creepy moments. They're a big part of the show's tone.
posted by zixyer at 9:14 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched this over the last two days and thought it was pretty good. The texting thing was a little annoying because I only have a medium size SD TV and the texts were hard to read at times and the content is important to know what is going on. Larger balloons would have been nice with text at least as large as closed captioning.

I'll probably end up watching it again in the next couple weeks and then again just before the second season gets released.

dephlogisticated writes "I do, however, wish they'd dropped the fourth-wall-breaking narration."

I actually liked it. It gives that narrator voice and it explains things about the US system that would mystify.

Jalliah writes "
I just have one subscription. If I turn the unblock thingy on (just click the icon) the American version pops up. Keep it off and I get the Canadian. I don't even have to relog just refresh the page. I'd expect it would work with other countries as I know people use the unblock thing to watch stuff from Britain.
"

So do you have a US or Canadian sub and what unblocking service are you using?
posted by Mitheral at 8:26 AM on February 9, 2013


Unreality Television
All that points to the big problem with “House of Cards”, and to an unacknowledged reason why political Washington may love it. It is an exercise in nostalgia: not for the days of Mr DeLay, but for a time when—presiding over a post-war boom and rising prosperity—elected politicians could feel confident that they were in charge of the country’s fate. Today, honest politicians feel something closer to impotence: they are unable to bring the old economy back, and have yet to figure out a sustainable replacement. That leaves much of Washington haunted by a guilty dread of voters, and of the populists who successfully channel the public’s anger, fear and disappointment. In the words of a congressional staffer: “We know how to relate to each other in Washington. We have a harder time relating to voters back home.”
How 'House Of Cards' Gets The Biggest Things About Washington Wrong
But the show has one glaring flaw – it reflects a Washington of years past that couldn’t be more unfamiliar to the leadership-less capital of today. President Obama’s relationship with the legislative branch has become so poor that the White House is telegraphing that it will pass most of the president's agenda by executive order and bypass Congress entirely. On his signature gun-control proposal, Obama can’t even pressure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to bring up all of his proposals. And by the way, there are no more moderate Southern Democrats like Underwood left to push a more-liberal president to the center, as the fictional lawmaker does on education reform. It wasn’t long ago that Blue Dog Democrats were the major power center on Capitol Hill.
The Secret Sauce Behind Netflix's Big Hit 'House Of Cards': Big Data
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm about 2/3 of the way through, watching 2-3 episodes a night and loving it. I'm looking forward to finishing it and then waiting on tenterhooks for the next 13 episodes.
posted by arcticseal at 1:53 PM on February 21, 2013


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