Wednesday, February 20, 2013

House of Cards: Netflix Deals Us a New Hand

NOTE: This piece was originally published on Critics at Large on February 20, 2013. If you wish to comment, please do so there.

"You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." – Kevin Spacey stars in House of Cards, on Netflix

On February 1st, the entire first season of the new American version of House of Cards became available on Netflix worldwide. In light of these unique circumstances, I should emphasize that this post only contains very minor spoilers for the first of the show’s 13 episodes.

A little over a year ago, Netflix launched its first original program, making the first season of Lilyhammer available to its subscribers. The Norwegian-American co-production was big hit in Scandinavia and a moderate critical success here in North America (it’s light, but uniformly enjoyable, fare). It was by no means a quiet rollout, but compared to the press and enthusiasm of the Kevin Spacey/David Fincher produced House of Cards, in retrospect Lilyhammer seems almost like an open secret. (A second season of the Steven Van Zandt series, it is worth noting, goes into to production in March).

Last January, when Lilyhammer was first being rolled out, there was some talk about Netflix’s entry into original programming, and even more talk in recent weeks since House of Cards’ much publicized launch on February 1st. Certainly, House of Cards deserves the press – it is actor Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) and director David Fincher’s (The Social Network, The Girl with theDragon Tattoo) first foray into television, and it is much more ambitious both narratively and artistically than Lilyhammer, but all talk of revolutions notwithstanding, it isn't likely to herald a new age of television by itself. But let’s just say this: House of Cards is worth watching. What else does a viewer really need to know?