Author: Sarah Corsa
Netflix’s new original series “House of Cards” may be a dangerous revolution in television, especially for college students eager for an excuse to procrastinate. All 13 episodes of the political drama dropped at once on Feb. 1, which allowed for frenzied marathon sessions in the first weekend alone. The strategy behind the new show’s presentation plays into viewers’ habit of binge watching.
Kevin Spacey portrays Francis Underwood, the Majority Whip cheated out of the Secretary of State position and hungry for revenge. Robin Wright plays his wife, Claire Underwood, an environmental activist who is just as relentless as Spacey’s character. Kate Mara completes the list of main characters as Zoe Barnes, the ambitious young journalist climbing the ranks at the Washington Herald. Together with Underwood, she makes a splash in the political sphere through her seemingly prophetic articles fed by Underwood’s gossip.
Spacey is ruthless yet refreshing in the bad guy role. His narration directly into the camera is initially disarming but soon makes the viewers feel as if he is confiding in them when he dispenses nuggets of wisdom or introduces viewers to the major players in Washington D.C. The show has no trouble fulfilling the stereotypes of politics, from office flings with the secretary to blackmail and other manipulation tactics. The issues discussed around board tables are relevant yet avoid any particular partisan discourse.
Although some episodes verge on overindulgent at times, “Cards” is overall thrilling and thought provoking. The dramatic fluff is balanced out with scenes detailing the more technical aspects of drafting Underwood’s education bill and pushing it through Congress. Underwood embodies a variety of personas to maneuver among the other characters he is interacting with.
At its conception, “Cards” was the first book in a trilogy by British politician and writer Michael Dobbs. Andrew Davies then adapted the story for a BBC miniseries taking place shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s resignation in the 90’s. In total, the series won two British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards (BAFTAs).
The all-star crew for the American version only boosts the show’s potential further. Director David Fincher’s credits include movies such as The Social Network, Fight Club, and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The Oscar nominated screenwriter Beau Willimon, who adapted the script for American TV, has experience in the political thriller genre after working on the 2011 film, The Ides of March.
Netflix outbid other cable TV channels, including HBO and Showtime, to scoop up “House of Cards” for their original programming debut. Based on their data collection, releasing the entire series at once could only complement the way viewers watch TV series now. Although binge watching is possible after a whole season of a traditional show has aired, Netflix’s strategy acknowledges that this is a growing habit and allows viewers to do so immediately. “If you give people this opportunity to mainline all in one day, there’s reason to believe they will do it,” Fincher said during an interview with the Director’s Guild of America.
Although Netflix will not issue any information on the popularity and ratings of the show so far, online reviews are praising the full-season release. Because there is no need to keep viewers hooked from week to week, the show’s creators have greater freedom. It is not necessary to be around every Wednesday night at 8 pm, for example, to catch the latest episode, so viewers can watch at a more individualized pace.
Because of viewers’ indeterminate point in the show, media outlets have had to adapt their reporting to avoid releasing spoilers. Social media’s reaction to the show has changed too. Rather than a fan base and community that comes together after each week’s episode to exclaim over the most recent events, viewers need to seek out others who have watch the same number of episodes.
With Netflix’s commitment to at least two seasons of “House of Cards,” the internet-released series will persist for some time. If any subsequent shows are on par with “Cards,” the notion of internet-exclusive content may become a permanent fixture, something about which all TV addicts can rejoice.
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