|the late Ian Richardon in the original|
House of Cards (he was also the
perfect Bill Haydon in the
original Tinker Tailor)
Much of the critical ink spilled on House of Cards has been in praise of its format. It was not produced by a traditional TV network, studio or independent production company, but by Netflix - the DVD downloading company. It was released as a 13 episode arc for Netflix subscribers. In a sinister Orwellian mining of subscriber data Netflix discovered that people who liked the original Andrew Davies House of Cards also were fans of Kevin Spacey movies and David Fincher films - thus the remake came into being. While the New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Entertainment Weekly and other media outlets have found this approach to be novel, modern and clever, to me it seems rather cynical and disturbing. But I suppose none of this would really matter if the US House of Cards were any good, which it isn't. The professional critics have mostly liked the show, or at least have written that they liked the show, which I don't get at all. (Think Game of Thrones with all the sex, violence, campiness and humour removed.) Admittedly I did not watch the entire 13 episodes. I fastforwarded through episodes 7 and 8 and skipped episode 9 entirely as the clunky plot meandered its leisurely way into place. Picking it up again in episode 10 I found that I had missed little.
House of Cards is not the worst thing ever made but it is bland, insipid, safe and depressingly inoffensive, a result, I reckon, of yet more market research. It is lowest common denominator fare for the kind of people who think Downton Abbey is high quality television. But don't let me put you off. There are some good things about it: its nice to see Robin Wright acting again (although the scenes between her and Spacey are devoid of chemistry(through no fault of Wright's)) the production values are high, Fincher's directing is solid and the supporting cast is - mercifully - far more attractive than anyone within 100 miles of the beltway. I suppose if, like me, ennui is eating at your soul, or if you're a Spacey or Fincher completist, or if you've got time to kill in the hospital/the DMV/the middle coach seat of flight to Australia then maybe, just maybe, House of Cards USA might be an acceptable way of passing half a day of your precious life.