Hey TV.com, Should I Watch Netflix's House of Cards?

By Tim Surette

Jan 31, 2013

Netflix begins its REAL push into original programming this weekend with House of Cards, the first in a wave of new releases designed to transform the DVD-delivery and streaming-video subscriber service from a treasure trove of old media into a treasure trove of old media with some sparkly new stuff. This new initiative isn't going to be an overnight success, but the first major launch (outside of Lilyhammer, which Netflix quietly and exclusively released in the U.S. last year) is kind of a big deal for the business's future. But is House of Cards worth forking over the $7.99 a month? I've seen the pilot episode and am here to help you make that decision by answering a few of your questions.

UPDATE: If you're looking for a more in-depth take, here's my full review of the pilot.

What is House of Cards about?

A remake of the 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name, Netflix's version is set in contemporary USA and follows Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, on TV!) as he attempts to dismantle the new presidential regime that passed him over for Secretary of State. There will be shady deals with reporters, the blackmailing of Congressmen, and plenty of ass-kicking and ass-kissing. Kate Mara, Robin Wright, and Michael Kelly also star.

When does House of Cards debut?

The first season will pop up on Netflix on February 1 at 12am Pacific / 3am Eastern (Thursday night/Friday morning). Under the Netflix model, all 13 epsiodes will be released at once, so you can finish the whole season in a day if you want. Netflix has already ordered a second season.

Who's behind House of Cards?

Playwright Beau Willimon gets into TV for the first time. He wrote the play Farragut North, which became the basis for George Clooney's The Ides of March. David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac), one of the best directors out there, also has a big hand in the project. Fincher directed the first two episodes. The show is produced by Media Rights Capital, the same group that tried to rent the weekend from The CW a few years back.

Who is going to like this?

People who liked Season 5 of The Wire, but who didn't care for the drug dealers and cops. People who like the nitty-gritty intricacies of politics. People who watch C-SPAN and read Politico for fun. People who liked Starz's Boss.

Let's hear the positives about House of Cards.

If this is the future of television, sign me up: Netflix's model is a fascinating one, but who knows whether it'll work or not. On the production side, House of Cards doesn't look like a TV show thanks to Fincher's eye—this is staggering, movie-quality stuff here and there isn't a shot that doesn't pop. The writing and tone are also more akin to HBO and Showtime (or even British miniseries) than network TV's previous attempts at heady stuff; this wouldn't even get looked at by the major broadcasters. The show also paints Washington as a town full of adulterous, power-hungry, morally absent assholes, which is exactly how I imagine it.

And on the flip side, what isn't so good?

One of the most jarring elements of the series is Underwood's breaking of the fourth wall as he speaks directly into the camera at the audience, much like Don Cheadle does in House of Lies. Personally I hate that, and I don't know if playfully talking to viewers matches the series' grave tone. If you don't like politics, you might feel lost. Some of the dialogue, especially in Spacey's monologues to the camera, probably looked better on paper than it sounds on the screen, as his bulldog barks come off as carefully thought-out stage-play speeches rather than spontaneous tirades. Though he's an interesting and intelligent character, the conniving Underwood isn't necessarily a likeable fellow. But the biggest problem with the series is it never really grabbed me (though I will admit politics isn't my thing). I'm probably just too dumb.

So should I watch it or not?

If you already have Netflix, then it wouldn't hurt to give this a shot. But be prepared to go all in, if you do, as House of Cards isn't the sit-back-and-relax type of television. This is a series for the patient, and the more time you invest in it, the more it will reward you as danger thickens. And if you have dreams of heading to D.C. and backstabbing everyone, you'll probably be into it. If politics aren't your thing, wait for Netflix to build up its library of originals before spending an extra eight bucks a month, then come back to this.

Can I see a trailer?

Right here:

What drink best accompanies House of Cards?

This is a single-malt scotch type of show.

The entirety of Season 1 of House of Cards premieres Friday, February 1 at 12am Pacific on Netflix (for subscribers only).

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  • OutrSpaceBonobo Feb 01, 2013

    I <3 the British House of Cards so much and Ian Richardson was just brilliant! as Francis Urquhart! Very excited to see how it is translated to the US, even if already know how it will generally end. Surprised to see that the asides are taking flack in this version. In the UK series, they provided a necessary and desired insight into Urquhart's subtext that was different to his exterior. Made us feel like a co-conspirator Urquart's actions. Brutus to his Cassius. It was so fun. Can't wait to see how it plays out in this version!!! Also, if you haven't seen the original House of Cards, you gotta add it to your Netflix queue.

  • AssandroJourn Feb 01, 2013

    Yeah "monologues to camera" stunt is lame. Shall be never used. I'm kinda tired of cable shows' obsession with douchebags as protagonist. House of lies comes to mind. And White House as panopticon of assholes and backstabbing hypocrites, what's new? It's ground for exaggeration and reality twisting for the sake of drama (like in Boss). Where are all decent people? To say that politics is dirty business is no reason to create a whole tv show.

  • ted2332 Feb 01, 2013

    They didn't create a new show, they just copied a good British show and ruin it. (as usual)

  • NeeUyank Feb 01, 2013

    It is Kevin Spacey from the David Fincer perspective.. even if it was about things that I absolutely do not care about I would watch it.. and yet it is about politics.. it is a combo of awesomeness:)

  • LarissaPeixot Feb 01, 2013

    I couldn't agree more.

  • ohnobees Feb 01, 2013

    This was always of interest for me. I'm a big David Fincher and Kevin Spacey fan, I also enjoy toying with the fourth wall.

  • Mazapax Feb 01, 2013

    The UK version, which I highly recommend, is one of my favourite shows. From what I can gather from the trailer of the US version it seems to be fairly faithful to the original series 1, even including breaking the fourth wall - which is a risky move - but one I thought worked well in the original, hightening the sense that the protagonist is taking us on a journey to the other side of politics. The production values here are obviously much greater and Kevin Spacey seems excellent for the part.

    If my assumption is correct, and the season is based on the UK series 1 (or the first book) it's going to be interesting to see what they add/expand to make a three episode series into a 13 episode season.

  • dhaworth Feb 01, 2013

    I agree about the original. Ian Richardson was fantastic.

  • katikool Feb 01, 2013

    Hasn't this been out for ages already? Or was there another internet release TV series starring Kevin Spacey? Which leads me to my next question- isn't Kevin Spacey too good for internet TV? Apparently not :(

  • terminaltrip421 Feb 01, 2013

    content wise (swearing and nudity), can we say this is most similar to a premium channel, cable or network tv?

  • SinspaW Feb 01, 2013

    This has enormous potential. Pity a weekend's time will see it through

  • mrjimmyjames Feb 01, 2013

    I'll have to check it out. You had me at Kevin Spacey...

  • efonsecajr Feb 01, 2013

    People live without subscribing to Netflix? Interesting.

  • darkitp Feb 01, 2013

    outside the US get this message
    Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country yet.
    so i say to them " F " you , i will watch it for free
    or buy it on bluray when it comes out

  • Teddiebere Feb 01, 2013

    Someone after my own heart.
    Hate messages that say I can't get something because I'm in the wrong country!

  • katikool Feb 01, 2013

    I wouldn't call it living.

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