Tag Archives: House of Cards

Ranking the Show That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 58-55

14 Mar

Four hour longs start us off, two CW, one Netflix, and one Amazon.

Intro here.

58. House of Cards – 2014: 42

House of Cards

I probably wouldn’t have watched this past season of House of Cards if I didn’t traditionally marathon it with friends. No show benefits from that binge watching more than House of Cards. It’s a fun activity as a group, but the more you think about the show, the more it all falls apart, and the dumber it is. The show makes so little sense that the best way to watch it is to finish it because you can think. The ridiculousness can be fun, and it legitimately was in the first season; the binge-watching advice was as much backhanded compliment as insult. Now it’s just, well, very bad. On top of the mess that the show is, there’s a sense that the show believe it’s more meaningful than it is which eats away at whatever fun the show has left. Whether I watch again this season will depend on whether my friends and I put aside a rainy day and beers for it; otherwise it’s probably not going to happen.

57. Arrow – 2014: Not Eligible

Arrow

Arrow is the darker and more dour companion to the happier-go-luckier The Flash, which we’ll see in a minute, and I have fairly similar thoughts on both shows.  The Flash’s first season was better than Arrow’s downer of a third season, but Arrow’s fourth season so far has been better than Flash’s second, half of the episodes of which seem like back door pilots for new series (mostly CW’s upcoming Legends of Tomorrow.) These shows aren’t necessarily and are only enjoyable on and off. They lean in super hard to obvious tropes and are incredibly predictable, and because there are 22 of them a year, have some of the worst pacing and are incredibly repetitive. More than almost any other show, I’ve watched I feel like I can read or fade in and out and not really miss much from these shows, and while that’s been useful when binging to catch up with these shows, that’s not a compliment. There are charms; the actors are generally competent, and there are good fight sequences and moments of clever snappy dialogue. Still, it’s not quite enough; I’d watch a couple of hour season recap of each if someone made it, but I’m not sure I can justify devoting the amount of time required to watch this show and the following one moving forward.

56. Flash – 2014: Not Eligible

Flash

I’d rather not write separate pieces for this and Arrow, but here we go. The Flash can be fun, and relative to Arrow, it’s lighter, and it’s best when it stays that way. There’s a lot of emo, a lot of angst, a season long big bad, but and it stays fun when it’s just on the right side of mediocre. The Flash and Arrow don’t crossover a lot but they almost crossover just enough and there’s not enough difference in quality that I want to watch one without the other, and that means that it’s 44 or so episodes a year, or zero, which is a big commitment for a pair of shows that would be somewhat more compelling with a small one. Great shows are for everyone; Flash (and Arrow) are only for relative comic fans.

55. The Man in the High Castle – 2014: Not Eligible

The Man in the High Castle

I really wanted to like The Man in the High Castle. It’s an alternate history, which is a genre unseen on TV; as a history buff, I was definitely interested and it’s based on a Philip K. Dick book which I have shamefully not read but is well-regarded by my friends who have. It’s one of the classic alternate history premises; what if the Nazis had won World War II? In this world, the Germans control the eastern half of the US and the Japanese the West, but there are resistance groups working deep underground, which our unknowing protagonists are introduced to within the run of the show. There’s so much I want to explore within this premise, and so many interesting questions which could be asked and presented. The problem, however, is that the characters aren’t great or really even good. It’s hard to feel anything for the protagonists and the world building and plot doesn’t come fast enough to make up for the lousy characters. I’d be interested in coming back to it if the next season got glowing notices, but I’m saddened by how hesitant I am to return.

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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 43-40

26 Jan

Let’s kick if off – here’s a link to the introduction to our annual ranking of shows that I watched last year. This is our first batch of shows, and it contains the only couple shows I didn’t really enjoy watching last year along with a show that ended without quite living up to its potential. Here we go.

43. Helix – 2013: Ineligible

Helix

For almost every show on this list, I’m going to struggle to explain how it was ranked so low, and make sure that it comes across clearly how much I enjoy the show despite its relatively low ranking. Not here. Nearly every year, there’s one show I keep up with for far too long before it disappoints me and comes apart so much that I have trouble remembering why I kept up with it that long to begin with. In 2013, that show was Under the Dome. Last year, it was Helix. Like Under the Dome, Helix had an intriguing sci-fi premise. It was also from Ron Moore, who was behind the buzzy and worth-watching, if often overrated Battlestar Galactica remake. Helix was about a team of government scientists sent to a remote artic base outside of any government’s jurisdiction where a team of scientists and researchers work on top-secret projects. At its best, it had horror-suspense intrigue; think The Thing. Unfortunately, the characters and writing were weak and didn’t get stronger, and on top of that, the story scaled up way too quickly – so much that halfway through, it turned out the base was being run by a secret cabal of immortals. By the finale, it felt like I had been sold a bill of goods in the pilot and I left fairly disgusted, writing off any chance of my watching the second season.

42. House of Cards – 2013: 39

House of Cards

My opinion about the second season of House of Cards is similar to my opinion of the first season, but even more so. House of Cards is such an apt name for the show because it captures the plot from the viewer’s perspective – if you deign to think about any plot element for any amount of time, the entire plot of the show simply crumbles. This makes House of Cards ideal for marathon watching; the less you think about the show, the more enjoyable it is, which is generally not a great recommendation for a series. The second simply makes even less sense then the first, and Kevin Spacey’s protagonist Frank Underwood can get tiresome.  It often feels like his character has little depth or anything other than ambition and a mediocre southern accent to keep us peeled. The show is nonsensical, and lacks characters worth caring about. It’s lazy, sloppily written, and the dialogue is often silly and stupid – if I ever have to hear about “back channeling” something again, I’m not sure how I’ll react. How the president is so incompetently naïve to get manipulated by Spacey time and again makes one wonder how he ascended to the office in the first place. Admittedly, I may well watch the next season, as long as I do it in less than two days and never have to think about it again thereafter.

41. Downton Abbey – 2013: 42

Downton Abbey

Every year I forgot whether I qualify Downton Abbey season-wise by the time of its original British airing in the autumn, or its American airing in the following spring. A thorough search history tells me I chose the latter, so this blurb is for the show’s fourth season. Downton Abbey, to be frank, hasn’t been a very good show since its surprisingly enjoyable first season. It’s a melodramatic soap that sometimes acts as if it thinks it goes deeper, which it doesn’t, and the show suffers because of these pretentions. Every year I strongly consider not watching the next season. I’m currently leaning towards not watching season five, but ever year I’ve relented so far so I can’t be sure of myself. Every year, after I finish the season I wonder why I watched. Downton Abbey is less culturally relevant than it has ever been and is rightfully a show whose cultural relevance has declined at the same speed as its quality. On a positive note, for what it’s worth, the theme music is still as great as ever.

40. Wilfred – 2013: 34

WilfredSeason41

Wiflred was the little show that could, an adaptation of an Australian show that pushed on towards four seasons even though it could never quite become the cult favorite it wanted to and very occasionally deserved to be. The fourth and final season was largely less than satisfying, particularly the ending, and the show was as up and down and inconsistent as ever. At its heights, Wilfred, the story of a man and his best friend, a dog who looks like a human in a dog suit to him and only him, was warm, funny, irreverent, and weird. In its lesser moments, Wilfred was flat, somewhat boring, and repetitive, especially because most episodes followed a very similar pattern in which the man doesn’t listen to Wilfred, before coming around to his advice. The show, unwisely I always thought, decided to take on the big question of whether Wilfred was real or whether Ryan was simply crazy, and while those mythology episodes worked surprisingly well in earlier seasons, in the fourth season, they didn’t. The disappointing ending was only a small part of the last season, but it was emblematic of the season’s failure to convert of its potential. I’m glad I watched Wilfred, but redone with a number of edits, it could have been a lot better.

End of Season Report: House of Cards, Season 2

24 Feb

What are the two?

I enjoyed season 1 of House of Cards but it had some serious problems which kept it ranked fairly low on the list of shows that I watch. In season 2, those problems are exacerbated rather than fixed. I’ll probably still watch season 3 and I can’t quite say I didn’t somewhat enjoy my marathoning through the 13 season 2 episodes. It was still on the side of more pleasant and less of a chore (which is always one of the signs before I drop a show). Still, it was a somewhat disappointing season fraught not just with problems that are somewhat inherent to the formula of House of Cards, but with problems that could have been fixed through better planning.

Since unfortunately this review is more about House of Cards’ problems, than its successes, I’ll break down those problems in the two categories I briefly mentioned above. First, the issues inherent to the formula established by House of Cards. Frank Underwood, and to some extent his wife Claire seem virtually omnipotent. Simply put, they always win and get what they want. Sure, it’s not actually that easy, and they face crisis after crisis, but they’re just smarter and more visionary than everybody else, and even more than that have an uncanny ability to manipulate everybody to do exactly what they want, wittingly or unwittingly. The president was putty in Frank’s hands, and even when he suddenly woke up and saw what Frank was doing, Frank won him right back over after a brief respite. You can’t beat Frank and Claire, and at some point that takes a toll on the tension of the show. Sure, there’s something to watching our protagonists come up with a plan and execute it successfully, but this is more than that – it requires so many things to go right that it strains credibility even within the universe of the show where I’m willing to give it some decent leeway.  This was more tolerable in the first season when Frank seemed to play the scrappy underdog (relatively) that many powerful people didn’t give enough credit to, and it was relatively easier to believe that their understimation of Frank put them in a position of weakness. Now, though, it seems hard to imagine people are constantly underestimating him as Vice President.

The lack of both serious crises and more than that credible antagonists make Frank’s victory’s seem more certain and less earned. More than that, considering how many obviously stupid mistakes he makes, one would think he’d be losing more often, or everyone around him is just not particularly competent or even close to his level. Maybe if all his plans didn’t contain so many obvious holes, his winning all the time would be convincing. Again, I’m not even saying he shouldn’t be winning more of the time than not; but the way it feels, is that there is almost never really any chance of him losing.

The breaking the fourth wall in which Frank constantly turns toward the camera could be witty, sharp, and funny – a meta-take on narration (or something) – and sometimes is, but it’s more often unnecessarily on the nose; telling us exactly what he’s doing even when it’s incredibly obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. It plays right into my much­-ballyhooed (by me) dangers of narration. We get it, Kevin Spacey, I mean Frank Underwood, we see almost every step of your plans, your explanations and wry remarks aren’t adding a whole lot.

Thirdly, the show suffers from a somewhat serious flaw which I think makes it ideal for binge watching and whatever the opposite of ideal is for ruminating about for any period of time. Quickly put, the show doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The machinations, the Frank Underwood-actually-killing-someone, the idea that these mind-bogglingly complicated plans that involve eighteen different moving parts working as smoothly as no real life game of mousetrap has actually worked (seriously, if you got Mousetrap to work, kudos) actually work step by step, is a bit much to take. Again, this isn’t The Wire, or even Homeland, I don’t expect real life or even a close facsimile. But it’s not fantasy world Game of Thrones either. I’m perfectly willing to follow Underwood pretty far down the rabbit hole but the second season continues to want to extend the leash, to a point at which it just it’s too far within the universe of the show. Just be reasonable ridiculous, which I don’t think is too big an ask.

Those issues are not going away and were more or less prevalent in the first season. Here’s some issues that were more particular to this season.

Forget the internal logic of the show, for a minute. There were straight out significant parts of this season that made me think, why is this here, or more coarsely, to simply say out loud, “what the fuck?”. Chief among these are the hacker scenes with Gavin (Jimmi Simpson, Liam McPoyle from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and his guinea pig. What? Why? I get that he will at least hopefully come up in the third season, and the writers are trying to get a head start on setting up that plot but the point of these short fairly meaningless bursts with this character were confounding. Even more confounding, the scene with Xander Feng having sex with the bag over his head. Whaa? Why? In generally, there were just wasted threads that seemed to go nowhere and have unsatisfying conclusions. Lucas was a pretty lousy character who did an awful job of investigating and after his disappearance, any journalism angle largely goes by the wayside. By no means is the show obligated to keep up the journalism plotline, but the parts the made it in and the point at which it was cut out just seemed arbitrary and odd. The same goes for the killing of Zoe Barnes; it was a total shock, which absolutely had some value as a viewer, but beyond that it didn’t seem particularly well thought out. These are some examples, and I could break it down episode by episode, but in sum, there are a lot of these moments, and it feels like the writers just didn’t edit their work very well.

Season 2 could have used more compelling antagonists. It’s hard to get worked up against Gerald McRaney’s Raymond Tusk, and less so even about him than about the bureaucratic pissing match that him and Frank have over the course of the season; it basically feels like the same episode six or seven times in a row as Underwood and Tusk go back and forth. The plots are repetitive and not particularly compelling. If someone who is actually kind of a nerd about politics finds this boring and pointless, I can only imagine what someone with no interest in politics thinks. This all is not even counting what a mind-boggling pushover the president is, compared to Frank.

All this being said, House of Cards probably isn’t going to rank particularly high when I get down to ranking my 2014 shows next year, but I’ll most likely still come back to watch the third season when it comes around because I still think the show has something to offer. So here’s some general advice based on everything I’ve said above. Tighten the damn screws.  You have a while to put together this next season. Stop wasting time; make sure the scenes that are shown, are shown for a reason. Thread the season together smarter and more compellingly; don’t have a back and forth between two characters that sort of just vacillates over points that nobody really cares about. It can be done. I’ll wait for Orange is the New Black in the meantime.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 40-37

1 Jan

Okay, we’re full on into shows I actually like. There’s a lot of good tv out there these days, eh? Being in the 30s doesn’t mean a show is bad, it simply means I watch too much television.

40. The Bridge

Not about Chris Christie

The Bridge is the last show on this list that I have genuinely mixed feelings about; everything above it is pretty safely in the like camp for now. A new 2013 entrant with an up and down, up and down first season, I liked a lot and I didn’t like a lot about The Bridge. The show was strangely paced, sometimes greatly to its benefit, sometimes to its detriment. There are loads of good ideas but the writers sometimes didn’t know which plots to focus on and which characters were the most interesting. Matthew Lillard was one of the better returning characters and I hope he’ll be sticking around. The primary two actors are very good and they’re at their best when they transcend the standard police murder mystery stuff and dig deeper which they do, well, sometimes. I left the season not having any idea how confident to be about the second season but I’ll at least watch.

39. House of Cards

Ace of Spaces

This is not a great show, but it is a good pot boiler that keeps you watching through the end – the all-at-once netflix format serves it well. The show is a bit nutty and goes a little off the rails, but while the plot doesn’t totally make sense, it makes enough sense that you can follows the convoluted steps in your head if you don’t think too hard about. Not every angle truly works and a tad more restraint may have pushed it a little higher. It’s an absolutely credit that the plot, which could have fallen apart easily and is pretty pivotal to the show, actually worked enough to make it a success, and credit the Netflix system and the guarantee of 13 episodes for giving it any chance at all to pace itself the way the writers wanted it. Does it all make sense? Well, enough, and that’s exactly enough. Kevin Spacey’s southern accent is equal parts grating and delightful and while I’m not on the edge of my seat awaiting the second season, I’m going to watch it. Corey Stoll’s role as a troubled Pennsylvania congressman was one of the season’s highlights.

38. Siberia

Siberia

As I mentioned above, I genuinely enjoyed Siberia and the fact it’s #38 simply says more about the amount of good tv out there than about Siberia itself. I’m fairly sure I know the only three people who watched this show. It’s based on a strange, brilliant, high-concept idea of making a scripted reality competition show, and the creators actually kind of delivered on the idea. It was trippy, weird, campy, and it didn’t always work but it was surprisingly fun. I honestly think this is the type of show that really deserved a little cult that simply never developed around it. It did a much better job of mimicking reality show types and the bad acting that accompanies them than any comedy I’ve seen. One day, I’ll make a shirt with the revealer on it and walk around with it and absolutely no one in New York City will ever recognize it. If you have a day when you’re snowed in and doing nothing, marathon this guy. It’s not an all time series by any measure and there are no brilliant deeper layers but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, it’s an awful lot of fun.

37. Family Tree

Family Tree

Light and delightful and fun. I’m not the biggest cult fan of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries but I do generally enjoy them and I felt the same way about this show. If you like those movies you’ll love it, if you hate those movies, you’ll hate it, and if you’re somewhere in the middle I think you’ll be like me. Chris O’Dowd is an eminently liekable star and it’s just a cute and generally feel good piece of media about a man trying to discover his ancestry to learn more about himself after a break up. It’s awkward and weird but unlike British Ricky Gervais awkward it’s the kind of awkward that more often than not (albeit not always) works out all right in the end. It’s generally innocent and weird and well-meaning rather than vicious. There aren’t a ton of laugh out loud moments, but there are a few, and there’s more moments that just make you smile.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Gerald McRaney

24 Jul

Gerald McRaney

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Here at the Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame, we often like to celebrate character actors who don’t get their due.  But, occasionally, as today, we’re celebrating the career of an absolute TV titan whose work we still believe is underrated.

McRaney’s sheer amount of work is unbelievable.  His first TV role was in 1972 in an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  In the early ‘70s he appeared in episodes of Alias Smith and Jones, Cannon, The F.B.I., Sons and Daughters, The Waltons, and Mannix.  He was the last guest star to meet Matt Dillion in Gunsmoke.  He was an incredibly busy guest star in the second half of the decade as well, appearing in two episodes of Petrocelli, Police Woman, and The Streets of San Francisco, three of The Blue Knight and Barnaby Jones, and single episodes of CHiPs, Eight is Enough, Switch, Hawaii Five-0, The Oregon Trail, The Six-million Dollar Man, Baretta, The Dukes of Hazzard, and in a series adaptation of Logan’s Run.  He was in four episodes each of The Incredible Hulk and The Rockford Files.  He appeared in TV movies The Jordan Chance, Women in White, and The Aliens are Coming.

Rick Simon

After appearing in TV movies The Seal, Where the Ladies Go, and Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case, McRaney got his first huge break, starring in detective series Simon & Simon, as Rick Simon.  Simon & Simon operated as a classic partners-are-opposites set up.  Rick was the tough, street smart, brother; he was formerly a Marine who fought in Vietnam, while his brother AJ was book smart, financially savvy and fashionable.  Rick was a free spirit who liked pick up trucks and lived on a boat in his brother’s yard.*  The series lasted an incredible 8 seasons and 157 episodes, and yet no one can still remember the actor who played AJ (Jameson Parker – and don’t act like it was on the tip of your tongue).

While busy on the series, he found time to film a series of TV movies, including Memories Never Die, The Haunting Passion, City Killer, Easy Prey, A Hobo’s Christmas, The People Across the Lake, and the sublimely named Where The Hell’s That Gold?!!?  He crossed over as Simon into an episode of Magnum, and showed up in two Designing Womens.

Major Dad

Immediately after Simon & Simon ended, McRaney showed his range by starring in his next successful show, the four season sitcom Major Dad, where he played Major John D. “Mac” MacGillis, a commander of an infantry training school who falls in love with a liberal journalist who has three daughters.  For the second time in two shows, he played a Marine.  The show lasted four seasons on CBS.

During Major Dad’s run, he still found time for TV movies, including Murder by Moonlight, Blind Vengeance, Vestige of Honor, Love and Curses..And All That Jazz (I don’t look into every one of these TV movies because the entries would become thousands and thousands of words – but I couldn’t resist this one – IMDB lists the premise as “A private investigator and her husband, who is a doctor, investigate rumors of a dead woman who was brought back to life by a voodoo spell.” and it also features Delta Burke, who is McRaney’s real life wife playing that role as well as Elizabeth Ashley), and Fatal Friendship.

He basically spent the rest of the mid-90s filming a ridiculous amount of TV movies, none of which you will have ever heard of, but which I will list, because as I’ve said many times, TV movies have the best names.  Scattered Dreams, Armed and Innocent, Motorcycle Gang, Deadly Vows, Someone She Knows, Jake Lassiter: Justice on the Bayou (this may be the best name of this list), Not Our Son, The Stranger Beside Me, Nothing Lasts Forever, Home of the Brave, A Nightmare Comes True, A Thousand Men and a Baby (this may have now taken over as best title) and a Simon & Simon reunion entitled Simon & Simon: In Trouble Again.  He appeared on single episodes of Burke’s Law, The Commish, Diagnosis Murder, Coach, and Murder, She Wrote.

He appeared in seven episodes of Darren Star created one-season CBS primetime soap Central Park West, which starred Mariel Hemingway and Raquel Welch and he appeared in seven episodes of the much more successful CBS drama Touched by an Angel.  His recurring character on Touched, Russell Greene, was spun off onto his own CBS drama, Promised Land, which lasted three seasons, and which I don’t even remember existing.  The show was the story of Greene and his family traveling throughout the United States in their airstream trailer, even though everything was filmed in Utah.

The early ‘00s was possibly the least fertile period of McRaney’s career, and he still collected several series appearances and TV movie roles.  Movies included Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story, A Holiday Romance, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, Danger Beneath the Sea (new best title contender!), Becoming Glen, Tornado Warning, The Dan Show, Going for Broke, and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, where he played Patton.  He was in two JAGs, two Third Watch episodes, an episode of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, and two West Wings.

George Hearst

In 2005, he made his first of 13 appearances on David Milch’s HBO western Deadwood, where he played George Hearst, a villainous mining baron who unites the town of Deadwood against him.  In 2006, he starred in cult CBS post-apocalyptic series Jericho as Johnston Green, Mayor of Jericho, father of main character Jake, and again, a military veteran.

In the past few years, McRaney, now in his 60s, has been as in demand as ever.  He was in two episodes of Women’s Murder Club and a CSI.  He co-starred in JJ Abrams’ short-lived spy drama Undercovers in 2011, as CIA handler Carlton Shaw, who brought back the two main characters into the agency.  He played a recurring judge in five episodes of USA’s Fairly Legal, who had a grudge against main character Kate for switching from law to mediation. He was in two episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards as Raymond Tusk, a wealthy industrialist and long-time friend and confidante of the president.  He was in two episodes of Justified as Josiah Cairn, friend of the hillbillies and of Raylan’s dad, who claims to know where Drew Thompson is.  He was in five episodes of Southland and six of Mike & Molly.  Most recently he’s appeared in three of A&E western Longmire.

Phew.  That was a long one.  What’s also kind of incredible is just how few movies McRaney has been in relative to his television work, which has been more or less completely constant since 1980.  What a career, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Welcome to the Hall, Gerald.

*I erroneously originally put that Rick lived in a trailer on his brother’s property, rather than a boat.  Thank you for correcting me, commenter – my boneheaded error.

Spring 2013 Review: House of Cards

27 Feb

House of Lies as well

The show that House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey as House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, most reminds me of is the two season Starz show Boss starring Kelsey Grammar as the mayor of Chicago.  A good quick description would be a less ridiculous and extreme version of Boss, at least so far, though that’s not a very meaningful statement since it would be difficult to construct a more ridiculous version of Boss.  However, since only eight people in the world have actually seen Boss, I best elaborate further.

House of Cards, the first true Netflix original program, is all about about politics and power and comes from Beau Willimon, who is best known for writing the play Farragut North, later adapted into the movie Ides of March, which starred George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.  I don’t know how different the play is from the movie, but House of Cards seems like a more complicated version of themes touched upon in Ides of March.  Idealism is misplaced in a Washington D.C. political climate that revolves around power and sex, and while there are people who want to get good things done, even the relative good guys know that there’s a whole lot of dirty business that has to go on to make the smallest good thing happen even for just a couple of people.  Making the sausage is at its best an ugly process.

Frank Underwood is a player in a Washington world of those who are players and those who are played, and when the president, a Democrat who Underwood helped elect, turns him down for his hoped for promotion to Secretary of State, Underwood vows to reassert his power and make the president pay, politically.  Underwood knows how to work the system, and begins a working relationship with an ambitious young reporter (Kate Mara) desperate for news, feeding her leaks in exchange for her publicizing them and keeping him out of it.  Other characters include a philandering cokehead congressman from Pennsylvania and his hopelessly-in-love-with-him girlfriend employee, Underwood’s chief of staff, who gives him counsel and does occasional dirty work, and the president’s chief of staff, who so far seems to be always one step behind Underwood.

In a show like this, some of how I view the beginning will depend on how the show pays off on its set ups.  In particular, the plot revolving around Underwood’s wife  (Robin Wright), who runs a water related non-profit seems tertiary to the rest of the story, but I’m willing to give it some leeway if Willimon eventually brings us around to where this matters. It’s hard to see the connections just yet though.  Clearly, Russo, the drugged out Congressman, is going to play some critical part as well, but it’s hard to say what.  In the first episode, the pieces are laid out on the board, and we can take guesses, but it’s too far away to figure out exactly how many of them will be used and to what effect.

The other current show House of Cards reminds me vaguely is Game of Thrones, another show about struggles for power, and the gap between the players and the played, demonstrating the idea that today’s Washington politics aren’t worlds away from the feaux medieval power struggles of Game of Thrones (though hopefully without as many bodies).

It’s not a very funny show; there isn’t much humor, but it’s a relatively fun show so far, in that there’s an element of trashy sleaze that prevents it from being bogged down with the serious pretensions that sometimes drag down a show like Boardwalk Empire.  Spacey’s Underwood frequently interjects the story the talk to the camera, explaining how Washington works, and why he’s taking the action he is.  I’m not sure if these interjections are actually supposed to be funny; again, they’re not, but they keep the show relatively light for a show about these topics, compared to Boss as well, another show that seems to want to take itself so goddamn seriously.

I’d also be remiss not to notice that Kevin Spacey’s southern accent (He’s a congressman from South Carolina, already stretching reality, as a white Democratic congressman from the South), which I have no idea how authentic, is nevertheless slightly distracted; couldn’t he just be from Delaware or something?  Also, the first episode is directed by David Fincher.  I don’t have a lot to say about that right here and now, but it’s certainly worth noting.

Will I watch it again?  Yes, I’m in for more.  I’m not convinced it will be a great show, but it certainly has at least the chance to be a very fun show, but let’s hope the writers planned out the plotlines.