House of Cards

I’ve said, “this feels like the future” before and I’ve only been half serious. Well, this feels like the future, for real. House of Cards is a modern political thriller representing Netflix’s first foray into original content that has a couple of futuristic aspects.

First of all, at $7.99/month, delivered to any device any time, with original content, this method of distribution has the potential to increase the options and to drive down the cost of consuming quality content for watchers all over the world. Second, the production values, with a cool way to display text messages and incorporation of modern tech like it’s really used, give it an ultra-modern feel.

Aside: Others are already getting in to the game.

None of this would matter if it weren’t captivating TV. Oh, it’s good. It’s a political thriller, a revenge story, and a complete evisceration of American politics. It has great acting by big stars like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and solid performances by up and coming actors like Kate Mara and Corey Stoll. It also tosses in a couple of bit players from the The Wire, Reg Cathey and Boris McGiver, if you care about that sort of thing.

This is certainly adult content and if you share your Netflix account on a kid’s device, pull it now. I do think this show could be pretty darn effective even without the swearing, sex, and violence, but the frankness of it probably expands the adult audience. However, it’s content driven and not gratuitous, so even people squeamish about stuff like HBO’s Girls won’t find it objectionable.

Unlike any other piece of serious episodic televsion ever released in the history of mankind, the whole series of House of Cards was made available at the same time. If you’re a binge-watcher, this thing will suck you in. I’m not a binge-watcher, so my wife and I watched it in one or two episode blocks over the course of about three weeks. That worked well, although we did have to actively avoid plot spoilers.

I’ve watched The Wire, Homeland, and Downton Abbey over the last few years and this thing holds up well. It has the social conscience of The Wire, the moderness of Homeland, and the “oh no you didn’t” drama of Downton Abbey, but it seems cooler than all of them.

I’m not sure why it seems cooler. It could be that it’s the last thing I saw and I suffer from consistent bouts of the recency effect. I certainly don’t think it’s because of all of the Apple products they show on-screen, but I’m not ruling that out. I do think that the current state of gridlock in Washington and the timely topic of bloggers versus the traditional press both have something to do with the perception of cool for me. I’ve also spent the last few years making monthly trips to Georgia/South Carolina for work, during which time I’ve consumed a lot of barbecue in local joints, which makes Francis Underwood a brother of sorts.