Nick Gillespie writes: A show that was once darkly great has descended into prosaic moralism. God save us from fictional pols who are serious about jobs programs.
Is anybody else kinda-sorta done with House of Cards? Not literally but figuratively. Season three is a real letdown, but not because the Netflix series is, in the words of one reviewer, too “bleak” or negative or dark.
“House of Cards is going softer than President Frank Underwood’s gut. The first two seasons were a palate-cleansing, tit-for-tat inversion of Aaron Sorkin’s cloyingly earnest West Wing, where even the bad guys tended to be good-hearted, if ideologically misguided.”
It’s the exact opposite: House of Cards is going softer than President Frank Underwood’s gut. The first two seasons were a palate-cleansing, tit-for-tat inversion of Aaron Sorkin’s cloyingly earnest West Wing, where even the bad guys tended to be good-hearted, if ideologically misguided.
But in just three seasons of House of Cards we’ve gone from Underwood (Kevin Spacey) not thinking twice about shoving under a train the unethical journalist he was fucking to a world where he actually takes seriously the idea of a federally funded jobs program that will—finally! seriously! emphatically!—end unemployment as we know it. He actually seems to earnestly want to do something for people and not simply because it will give him more power. Hell, at one point, he echoes FDR talking about how the “country needs bold, persistent experimentation” to turn the economy around and approaches his “America Works” program as something other than the shovel-ready malarkey the old Frank would have gleefully exulted.
Do we really want the characters in House of Cards to start developing consciences and to grow into moral actors? Please, the whole kick of the show is precisely that its universe is inhabited only by ethical gargoyles.
Even more disappointing is the devolution of First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) from a ruthless operator who puts Agrippina the Younger to shame into a latter-day Lady Macbeth filled with doubts about her and her husband’s patently unredeemable actions. “We’re murderers, Francis,” she says at one point in the new season—as if that’s a bad thing.
What’s going on here might be called the “Archie Bunker Effect,” and it’s no prettier than when All in the Family’s protagonist would belch loudly after chugging a beer while sitting in his favorite living room chair. When All in the Family started in the early 1970s, its protagonist was supposed to hold up a mirror to America and depict the petty and base racism, sexism, you-name-it-ism of the working class. Bless their hearts, Hollywood big shots such as creator Norman Lear just wanted to ennoble the little people.
“He actually seems to earnestly want to do something for people and not simply because it will give him more power. Hell, at one point, he echoes FDR talking about how the ‘country needs bold, persistent experimentation’ to turn the economy around and approaches his ‘America Works’ program as something other than the shovel-ready malarkey the old Frank would have gleefully exulted.”
“By giving bigotry a human face, Lear believed, his show could help liberate American TV viewers. He hoped that audiences would embrace Archie but reject his beliefs,” wrote The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum in an essay inspired by Saul Austerlitz’s 2014 book Sitcom. But as Nussbaum puts it, “‘A funny thing happened on the way to TV immortality: audiences liked Archie,’ Austerlitz writes. ‘Not in an ironic way, not in a so-racist-he’s-funny way; Archie was TV royalty because fans saw him as one of their own.’” Probably even worse for Norman Lear, in many ways the ultimate limousine liberal, was that the show’s resident liberal mouthpiece, Mike “Meathead” Stivic (brilliantly portrayed by Rob Reiner), was the show’s true laughingstock.
“We’re murderers, Francis,” Claire Underwood says at one point in the new season—as if that’s a bad thing.
But if there’s something more frustrating than fans misunderstanding a character and a show’s dynamics, it’s when producers do. All in the Family quickly became increasingly less funny and more preachy until it finally transmogrified into the godawful Archie Bunker’s Place. That last, comedy-free permutation was set at a bar Archie owned and operated. He still mangled the language (gynecologist became “groinacologist,” for instance) but Archie was now a standup guy who literally took in and cared for orphans.
“For all that, we are reminded time and again—and without irony—that leaders and policymakers are constantly balancing an impossible array of interests and tradeoffs.”
Similarly, the third season of House of Cards spends a hell of a lot of time humanizing the Underwoods and other characters. To be sure—spoiler alerts!—recovering alcoholic and chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is still capable of going on booze-and-sex benders and killing innocent people, but even he thinks twice before finally dispatching the prostitute Rachel, a loose thread whose existence threatens the president’s reelection. Read the rest of this entry »
In the current edition of John Nolte‘s Hollywood Playbook, this item caught my eye: Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. and Variety‘s Peter Bart discuss the state of movies and whether or not films are dealing with a brain drain as talented writers and producers head over to television in the hopes of grabbing their own piece of this new Golden Age.
Bart thinks it is all cyclical. Fleming is edging towards despair.
Fleming: Because those series and 10 more like them are better than anything I see on a movie screen. For the 25 years I’ve covered it, film has always been the sexiest, most prestigious part of the business. … But now, it feels like the ecosystem has been damaged. The creative vision on the big films comes from executives who give creativity-stifling one-step screenwriter deals, with emphasis on reaching four quadrant audiences. Producers have been marginalized. Should the authorship of a picture belong to the studio exec? By contrast, some of the best series are generated by feature writers who couldn’t get hired after studios turned away from smart mid-budget dramas in favor of no-budget genre and high-priced tent poles. I remember Tony Gilroy telling me a couple years ago that movies like his superb Michael Clayton would go extinct, but there should be no funeral because all those writers who made them were flocking to TV and wait and see what happens. Man, was he right. Will the next generation growing up in this creative blight be inspired by mediocrity to dream about having the authority to reboot The Hangover?
First off, “Michael Clayton” sucked. And I don’t think the idea of a “Hangover” reboot will wait for another generation. In five years, “The Hangover” will return with the characters as dads, or something. Read the rest of this entry »
“Ideas don’t determine who’s right. Power determines who’s right. And I have the power, so I am right.”
The game will release on November 4, with the trailer slated for release Sunday, but had to be posted three days earlier after it was leaked online.
The character uncannily looks like Kevin Spacey and acts like his House of Cards character Francis Underwood. The character speaks like Underwood’s character and is seen giving a speech about democracy and power. Read the rest of this entry »
This isn’t really a spoiler, by this stage. It’s not new. But the interview with Kate Mara, about her character, Zoe, is definitely worth reading if you’re a House of Cards fan.
House of Cards: ‘Is it possible, then, that we’re watching a conservative show? Well, no. And also yes…’Posted: March 16, 2014
There’s a lot to chew on in House of Cards, and much has been written about it, but this one has the finest blend of humor and insight. For a primer on Andrew Klavan (besides his book) check out his YouTube videos on the P J Media channel.
For City Journal, Andrew Klavan writes: House of Cards, the Netflix series about a lethally unscrupulous Washington politician, is a wonderful show, but it does sometimes stretch the limits of credulity. I have no trouble believing that a Democratic congressman would push a reporter in front of a train, but the idea that anyone in the press would try to expose him for it is flat-out ridiculous. After all, Barack Obama has been pushing reporters under the bus for six years and nobody’s said a word. Ah, well. If the show gives leftist politicos nightmares about being held accountable for their actions by American journalists, they can simply keep repeating, “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”
“…After all, Barack Obama has been pushing reporters under the bus for six years and nobody’s said a word.”
House of Cards does pose a more realistic threat to leftists, however: their 40-year monopoly on artistic political statements—and their tacit blacklist of anyone who tries to make opposing statements—may finally be coming to an end. House of Cards is not, as left-wing activist Randy Shaw wrote in a blithering and inattentive piece on Huffington Post, a “Republican fantasy world,” but it is not pure leftist cant, either. And that in itself makes it something of a New Thing on the show-business landscape.
“…the actual political maneuvers that move the story forward are ideologically muddy and unrealistic. Democrats seek serious entitlement reform, but Republicans are reluctant to go along. Really? Democrats circumvent teachers’ unions to reform education. Dream on!
Let’s set aside the bigger issues for a moment and consider one small scene in the third episode of the second season. Reporter Janine Skorsky—brought to vivid life by the perfectly cast Constance Zimmer—has left the Washington rat race to teach journalism at an unnamed college in Ithaca, New York.
We find her lecturing the class on how a media-manipulated narrative can outweigh the facts. Her example? In 1992, led by the New York Times, the left-wing media reported that President George H.W. Bush was surprised to see a barcode scanner in the checkout line at a grocery store. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese Netizens Love the New Season of ‘House of Cards’ — Even Though it Makes Their Country Look TerriblePosted: February 18, 2014
David Wertime and Han Chen report: “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series House of Cards, a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on Feb. 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments — in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC — the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics.
The attraction of House of Cards’ second season — which has already received over 9 million views in the first weekend compared to over 24 million for the first season, released March 2013 in China — appears two-fold. First and foremost, the show engages Communist Party corruption, elite infighting, and the often-outsized influence of the moneyed class with a directness that few domestic shows dare hazard. The colorul Feng, for example, alludes to scheming with members of the Chinese government to force a more liberal financial policy, not to mention bribing high officials outright. The result is a portrait of Chinese elite skullduggery convincing enough that one user wondered aloud in jest whether the show’s screenwriters had planted an undercover agent in party ranks.
Get ready for another lost weekend, another bout of binge-viewing, here it comes…
Netflix stock soared in after-hours trading approximately 10% on news of the growth. In a move that could also be significant for Netflix’s stock, the streaming service also announced that it would accelerate its schedule of spending on original programming.
That brings Netflix’s domestic streaming audience to 31.9 million. Together with the addition of 1.44 million international subs, that brings Netflix’s global sub base to over 40 million. Read the rest of this entry »