A quick glance at the names involved (on both sides of the camera) with new series House Of Cards would make you think that it was a sure-fire success. It’s a new political drama, based on a four-part BBC drama from 1990 (that was set in London, this is transported to Washington, D.C.) and stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, the Majority Whip in the US House of Representatives. Spacey is joined on an impressive cast list that includes Robin Wright as his wife Claire, Kate Mara as a reporter, and a host of recognisable faces from film and television.
The plot revolves around Spacey’s character, who is angered when he misses out on becoming Secretary of State, and then plots to bring down the new President (played by Michael Gill).
The names on the production side are just as impressive, including executive producer Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Forrest Gump), writer Andrew Davies (who created the BBC show) and most intriguingly of all, David Fincher. Not only is Fincher an executive producer on the show, but he also directed the first two episodes of the series, marking his first foray into episodic drama.
Fincher recently revealed that he’d been looking to make a move to the small screen for a while, claiming that he came close to directing the pilot for HBO’s Deadwood, amongst other projects that never quite got off the ground. Kevin Spacey has appeared on television in the past, but not since his movie career really took off in the 90s.
But House of Cards is a little different from most TV shows, mainly because it’s not really a TV show. Instead, House of Cards is a new series commissioned by Netflix, the online streaming service that has decided to branch out from streaming films and TV shows produced elsewhere, to making their own shows. This is the second show they’ve made after the Steve Van Zandt-starring Lilyhammer, but House of Cards is certainly going to attract much more attention.
Another thing that separates House of Cards from traditional television is that Netflix will be making the entire first season available on the same day, with all 13 episodes being available to watch from February 1st. They’ve made a commitment to make 26 episodes, aired over two seasons, meaning that they won’t be watching viewing figures and be able to pull the plug if it doesn’t meet their expectations (although early reviews suggest they’ve got a quality show).
It will certainly be interesting to see not only how many people watch the show (Netflix has around 26 million subscribers worldwide, and the show is released everywhere on the same day), but how they watch it. Will they watch all 13 episodes over a couple of days, or will they fall into the familiar routine of watching one episode each week? Which is the better way to watch a show anyway? The temptation always exists to just watch a whole season of a show in a few days if you’ve got it on DVD, but are shows really designed to be watched like that?
But however you choose to watch it, it does seem like there’s a strong chance that you’ll enjoy House of Cards. It has an intriguing plot and a lot of talented people involved, and it could also change the way people consume ‘television’ for good.
Season 1 of House Of Cards will be available on Netflix from February 1st