×

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

  • Composite Mieli/Davey

    Sky Studios Forges Production Pact With Fremantle's The Apartment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sky Studios and Italy’s The Apartment, the Fremantle-owned production company headed by Lorenzo Mieli, have forged a multi-year development and production partnership that marks Sky’s first agreement of this type outside the U.K. Under the deal, Sky Studios, which is the Comcast-owned pay-TV broadcaster dedicated production arm, will provide The Apartment development funding for a [...]

  • The Mess You Leave Behind’

    Carlos Montero on New Netflix Original ‘The Mess You Leave Behind’

    Netflix’s announcement of new Spanish series late last month underscored the platform’s intent to diversify its palette in the country while betting once again on one of their own, Carlos Montero. After co-writing “Elite” Season 2, and with a third set soon to bow, Montero has made the jump to the director’s chair for the [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Holly Robinson Peete Pay Tribute to 'Good Times' Actress Ja'Net DuBois

    Actress Ja’Net DuBois died on Tuesday at her home in Glendale, Calif. at the age of 74. The actress, known for her role in the 70s sitcom “Good Times” as Wilona, the Evans family neighbor, died unexpectedly in her sleep. She appeared in several other films and shows throughout her career including “Charlie’s Angels: Full [...]

  • Bigger

    TV News Roundup: BET Plus Renews Will Packer's 'Bigger'

    In today’s TV news roundup, BET Plus renewed “Bigger” for a second season, and Netflix announced premiere dates for “On My Block” Season 3 and “Feel Good.” CASTING Josh Hartnett has been cast in Quibi’s upcoming series “Die Hart.“ Hartnett will play a fictionalized character of himself, an alumnus of the action school where Kevin [...]

  • Ja'net Dubois Dead

    Ja'Net DuBois, 'Good Times' Actress, Dies at 74

    Ja’Net DuBois, known for her turn as Willona Woods on “Good Times,” was found dead in her Glendale, Calif. home on Tuesday. The Pan African Film Festival, which she co-founded, said she “would be deeply missed.” Her family told TMZ the actress died unexpectedly in her sleep. She was believed to be 74. In addition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content