Is Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ a Game-Changer?

There was a time when people sat around and listened to shows on the radio. There was a time when silent films became “talkies”. There was a time when cable came around and all of a sudden you had hundreds of channels at your disposal. There was a time when The Sopranos premiered on HBO and changed the way premium cable was regarded. Netflix is hoping that someday the statement “there was a time where people didn’t watch ‘television’ shows on the internet” will find it’s way onto that list.  The upcoming Arrested Development may be getting all the news, and Lilyhammer may have been the first, but House of Cards is no shrinking violet by any means.

From: http://cinelander.tumblr.com/
From: http://cinelander.tumblr.com/

Based on the 1989 novel by Michael DobbsHouse of Cards was originally adapted for television in 1990 by the BBC starring Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, as a member of Parliament as the Conservative Chief Whip. Fast forward twenty three years and hop across the big pond and it’s now a Netflix original program starring Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, esteemed Democrat from South Carolina and currently the House Majority Whip. Promised the Secretary of State spot by the President-elect, Underwood learns that he’s been hoodwinked and instead of crying in his beer, he decides to be a bit more proactive in his game of revenge. He is accompanied on this quest by his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), a young reporter, Zoe (Kate Mara), his chief of staff, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), and fellow Congressman Pete Russo (Corey Stoll).

To the surprise of no one, Kevin Spacey is incredible as the smooth talking Congressman. His asides to the camera bring the viewer into his own world and you can just hear the “Do you see the crap I have to deal with from these idiots?” tone just dripping from his voice. The rest of the cast is equally as engaging, especially Kate Mara as the go-getter Washington Herald reporter. The two team up in the most timeless of all political games; backstabbing, misdirection, and lying. It makes for a rather entertaining story.

In a bold, but incredibly smart move, Netflix released all of season one on February 1st. Now you can hunker down on the couch, at your desk, or even in bed and binge watch the entire season at once just like you’ve surely done countless times with other shows. I know I’m a huge fan of watching seasons of shows in short amounts of time as opposed to waiting a week for a new episode. It appears as if I’m not alone, and David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has noticed.

“The world of 7:30 on Tuesday nights, that’s dead,” Fincher said during an interview at his offices in Hollywood. “A stake has been driven through its heart, its head has been cut off, and its mouth has been stuffed with garlic. The captive audience is gone. If you give people this opportunity to mainline all in one day, there’s reason to believe they will do it.” -via DGA.org

Fincher directed the first two “chapters” and combined with the star power, it would be very easy to mistake House of Cards for a feature film at first blush. The production value is incredible, with good reason. It’s hard to look shabby with a $100 million budget for two seasons of a show. That’s $50 million per season. As much I’m enjoying the show, one has to wonder if Netflix has gone too far out on the limb on this one. Can they bring in enough new subscriptions to cover the cost? Is there any way they can make a profit? That remains to be seen.

What also remains to be seen? For me it’s the remaining five episodes of season one. I’ll admit that I’m quite addicted and would suggest any and all to join me in watching this fantastic show. Not a Netflix customer? Well you are in luck because they are offering the pilot episode for free (for a limited time I imagine) so you can get roped in like the rest of us.

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