×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

House of Cards

The Kevin Spacey vehicle isn't without some annoying tics, and feels a little late boarding the bandwagon of projects with Washington politics as a backdrop.

With:
With: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly, Sakina Jaffrey, Kristen Connolly, Sebastian Arcelus, Boris McGiver, Constance Zimmer, Jayne Atkinson.

First, the good news: “House of Cards” is a credible, premium-TV-worthy exercise, one whose impressive auspices serve notice that Netflix can indeed commission series that go beyond the typical ambitions and limitations of Web-originated fare. That said, the Kevin Spacey vehicle isn’t without some annoying tics, and feels a little late boarding the bandwagon of projects with Washington politics as a backdrop. With a single show, the service has neither established itself as a full-fledged competitor to HBO, nor embarrassed itself with an effort that might discourage future original-series campaigns. .

With a premiere starring Spacey, directed by David Fincher and written by “Farragut North’s” Beau Willimon (all among the show’s nine exec producers), “House of Cards” is adapted from a 1990 British miniseries, with Spacey playing Francis Underwood, a scheming 11-term congressman from South Carolina. Thwarted in his desire to be appointed secretary of state by the new president, he begins conniving to torpedo those around him, with help from his equally ruthless wife (Robin Wright) and an ambitious young reporter (Kate Mara) so eager to be fed information she’ll violate ethical boundaries.

Like “Veep,” HBO’s satirical half-hour, “Cards” remains somewhat coy about party affiliations for no clear reason, but Willimon exhibits a strong ear for the corrupting aspects of politics. Referring to a lobbyist throwing around money, Underwood drawls, “When the tit’s that big, everybody gets in line.”

One drawback, at least in the two episodes made available, is that Spacey frequently delivers those sneering asides directly to the camera, mirroring the earlier miniseries by breaking the fourth wall. As good as the actor is at creating such theatrical moments, it all feels a bit too precious at times here.

As with “Political Animals,” USA’s miniseries set in similar corridors, the program also does a marginal job fleshing out supporting players, or in this instance, of creating a worthy foil for Underwood. So far, Spacey has to shoulder most of the dramatic load, with the lineup of players Underwood manipulates including Corey Stoll as a womanizing, boozing congressman and Sakina Jaffrey as the president’s chief of staff. (The show does buttress its authenticity with cameos by the likes of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and CNN’s John King, which is at least more dignified than all the NBC synergy in “1600 Penn.”)

“My job is to clean the pipes and keep the sludge moving,” Underwood explains near the outset. By contrast, “House of Cards” is tasked with expanding Netflix’s pipes into an original-programming option the TV world has to sit up and notice.

For now, to quote another politician, mission accomplished. And as in D.C., if “House of Cards” is deemed enough of a success by whatever criteria Netflix employs to keep the money flowing, you can bet everybody will get in line.

House of Cards

Netflix, Fri. Feb. 1

Production: Credits: Filmed in Baltimore and Washington by Triggerstreet Prods. and Wade/Thomas Prods. in association with Media Rights Capital. Executive producers, David Fincher, Beau Willimon, Eric Roth, Joshua Donen, Dana Brunetti, Kevin Spacey, John Melfi, Michael Dobbs, Andrew Davies; co-executive producers, Rick Cleveland, Sarah Treem; producers, Karyn McCarthy, Keith Huff; director, Fincher; writer, Willimon; based on the novel by Dobbs and the miniseries by Davies;

Crew: Camera, Eigil Bryld; production designer, Donald Graham Burt; editor, Kirk Baxter; music, Jeff Beal; casting, Laray Mayfield. 60 MIN.

Cast: With: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly, Sakina Jaffrey, Kristen Connolly, Sebastian Arcelus, Boris McGiver, Constance Zimmer, Jayne Atkinson.

More TV

  • Disney Plus Launches, Two Episodes of

    Two Episodes of 'The Mandalorian,' Other Originals to Drop This Week as Disney Plus Goes Live

    New episodes of Disney Plus original series dropped Tuesday as the streaming service went live in three countries, with second installments of “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian” and other shows set to become available just a few days later. Disney’s new direct-to-consumer service launched Tuesday in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, with company chief [...]

  • Carolyn McCall

    ITV Revenues Dip in ‘Uncertain Environment,’ but Content Sales Rise

    ITV revenues were down by 2% in the first nine months of 2019. CEO Carolyn McCall, who has set a strategy refresh in motion, said the U.K.-based broadcaster’s performance was in line with its expectations, adding that, “although the economic environment continues to be uncertain, we are making good progress in executing our strategy.” Total [...]

  • DANCING WITH THE STARS - "Boy

    Sean Spicer Voted Off 'Dancing With the Stars'

    Sean Spicer will no longer appear on America’s television sets every Monday evening, at least as part of “Dancing With the Stars.” The former White House press secretary was voted off “DWTS” Monday night despite President Donald Trump’s earlier tweet urging the American people to vote for Spicer on ABC’s dancing competition show. The tweet [...]

  • US game show host Alex Trebek

    Alex Trebek Gets Emotional on 'Jeopardy!' After Contestant's Heartfelt Message

    Alex Trebek appeared to tear up on Monday’s episode of “Jeopardy!” after a contestant used his response to a prompt to convey the message “We love you, Alex.” As his answer to one of Monday’s questions, Tournament of Champions semifinalist Dhruv Gaur penned the message with a heart in place of the word “love,” betting [...]

  • Seinfeld

    Alan Horn Remembers How Rick Ludwin Saved 'Seinfeld'

    Rick Ludwin was the unsung hero of “Seinfeld.” That’s how Alan Horn, Walt Disney Studios chairman and former head of “Seinfeld” producer Castle Rock Entertainment, remembered the longtime NBC executive who died Nov. 10 at the age of 71. Ludwin was instrumental in getting the beloved “show about nothing” on to NBC as a regular [...]

  • Kristen Bell Pandas

    Why Kristen Bell Is 'Excited' About Returning as Narrator for HBO Max's 'Gossip Girl' Reboot

    Kristen Bell received an email a couple of months ago from “Gossip Girl” co-creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. “They just said, ‘We’ve got really good news. It’s looking like we’re going to do another version of ‘Gossip Girl’ and we would for you to return,’” Bell told Variety while promoting “Frozen II.” “I was [...]

  • ViacomCBS

    ViacomCBS Exec Shuffle Signals Move Toward $500 Million in Synergy Goals

    The latest cluster of high-level ViacomCBS executive announcements — which included CBS chief creative officer David Nevins and MTV/VH1 chief Chris McCarthy expanding their oversight, and Comedy Central head Kent Alterman exiting — likely constitutes the last round of public leadership shuffling ahead of the close of the Viacom-CBS transaction in early December, according to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content