30 Pilots in 30 Days: House of Cards

Had I seen it before: I watched the first eight episodes or so but stopped when I realized I was only watching because other people were and not out of genuine enjoyment.

What IMDb says:  A Congressman works with his equally conniving wife to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him.

Why I picked it: House of Cards is the first Netflix original series. It earned the Emmy nods to prove that Netflix originals could play in the big leagues. It’s weird to think about this, but just four short years ago, the concept of Netflix originals seemed really stupid to me. I mean would people really subscribe just to watch House of Cards? Enough people to justify all the production dollars spent on it? I had my doubts.

But now we live in a world where 4 out of 7 Emmy nominees for Outstanding Drama Series are streaming originals, with 3 of those 4 being from Netflix (and yes, House of Cards is still one of them). Netflix has an original series for every taste and tastes we previously didn’t know existed. They can afford to let Joss Whedon’s stuff go to Hulu because people love their original stuff enough to stay subscribed. The future of TV is now, and House of Cards played a big role in bringing it here.

What I liked: It was actually about politics. I don’t think I really understood how rare this is in a political drama. Sometimes these shows just feature the same old adultery and daddy issues we see in other dramas, but with characters that happen to have fancy government jobs. In House of Cards, we’re actually interested in an education bill and whether or not it will get passed. It’s like School House Rock with swearing. The fact that the drama here actually stems from politics is refreshing.

I’m also intrigued by the dynamic of Francis and Claire. We get the impression that their marriage isn’t actually based on love or lust or anything of that sort. Instead, it feels more like a business arrangement, something that two cold and calculating people agreed to in order to advance their respective careers. Both seem completely content with this. They’re unlike any married couple I’ve seen on TV before, and that counts for something. I want to know more about them as individuals but even more so about how they relate to each other.

What I didn’t like: Zoe Barnes annoys me. I think this is in part because we see her insist she’s good at her job and worthy of a promotion without actually seeing any evidence of this. Despite the fact that Francis isn’t a particularly likable, we get the sense that he is very good at his job. We see him wheeling and dealing with different people to get what he wants. We don’t really get any evidence that Zoe is a better than average journalist, we just watch her whine and complain that she is one but doesn’t have the opportunity she deserves.

Jury’s still out on all those fourth wall breaks. In general, I kinda lump them in with voiceover as a lazy person’s way of doing exposition. But I will give House of Cards some credit for committing to them, and writing enough jokes into this dialog to keep them entertaining.

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