When Netflix announced that it would be create its own original television series, releasing the entire season at once, there was hope that this could change the way we watch TV over the internet.
“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. If these new shows were hits and brought in new subscribers, many thought it would prove the future of television was already here.
The first show to be rolled out by Netflix was the Americanized version of the BBC’s 1990s series of the same name, “House of Cards.” The show was pitched to HBO, Showtime and AMC, but Netflix grabbed distribution rights to the first two seasons, 13 episodes per season, for a rumored $100 million.
Originally signed on as creators of the show were David Fincher—the director of movies including “Fight Club,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network”—and Eric Roth, the screenplay writer of movies including “Forrest Gump,” “Benjamin Button” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” The screenplay writer and co-producer of “The Ides of March,” Beau Willimon, was added soon after that.
By the time Netflix planned to announce the new series in March 2011, the show had signed on Kevin Spacey as the lead character, Frank Underwood, a Democratic U.S. Representative from South Carolina and House Majority Whip. Underwood’s wife is played by Robin Wright, who played Jenny in “Forrest Gump,” Princess Buttercup in the “Princess Bride” and countless other characters in many great films.
Underwood had been promised a prominent cabinet possession in the White House for his help in the campaign, but it was taken away from him. He claims that the slight from the White House did not bother him, but in reality he is working against the White House by working for them.
A general rule in acting is to avoid looking into the camera, yet Spacey often stares out of the screen to inform viewers what the person opposite him will do next. As the English teacher might have said, “Show, don’t tell,” a habit that works perfectly for Spacey’s character. Underwood is a great politician and is able to predict the moves of his rivals.
During the final episode of the first season, the show becomes very emotional. Mrs. Underwood has trouble continuing to project her tough personality, while freshman representative Pete Russo is having trouble at home. Some viewers will have tears.
All thirteen episodes of the first season were published to Netflix’s website at the beginning of February. Many jumped on to Netflix to start watching the first episode and could not finish until they had watched all 13.
Yet Netflix is not releasing ratings for the show because they “don’t want to give ratings, because it is a real apples-to-oranges comparison with network ratings,” but has said that “House of Cards” is now its most watched show in every country in which it operates.
One analytic firm estimated that on Feb. 1, up to 2.7 million watched the show and that possibly one third of House of Cards’ viewers finished it during the first weekend in which it aired. It is now the most popular television show on IMDb based on the website’s algorithms, which take into account “public awareness and interest” as well as ratings.
This show is worth watching. For those who do not have Netflix, it offers a month-long free trial. Students should probably wait to finish the first round of college tests and papers, because they will certainly waste a weekend with the show.