For me, a great fan of both the original series, and the star of the remake, Kevin Spacey, it was going to be must-see TV. However, I did have some trepidation about it, a feeling of “please don’t let them screw it up”.
They didn’t. In fact I am astounded that they have both managed to stay true to the original, and be fresh at the same time. Spacey’s Frank Underwood appears younger and more dynamic than the late Ian Richardson’s Francis Urquhart; Urquhart was a very right wing conservative MP, whereas Congressman Underwood is certainly on the right side, but a Democrat. Urquhart was definitely old school (Eton) establishment, whereas Underwood appears as a charming southern gentleman, although it is clear that the charm hides a calculating mind.
Both have done their time and service for the party, as senior whips, in the expectation of a reward of position when their side take power; both are betrayed by their party leadership, and plan revenge from their whip’s office; to bring the house of cards down.
Being set in the US, the politics are different, and being 13 years on, the issues are also different. However, enough remains the same for this show to seem comfortably familiar – their equally manipulative wives, drawn from Lady MacBeth, it seems; the way our anti-hero speaks directly to the viewer, including us in his machinations, like an old friend; and that well-turned phrase: “You might think that, but I can’t possibly comment”, by which he plants seeds in people’s minds, while achieving complete deniablity.
Plus, of course, both Francis Urquhart and Frank Underwood have the same initials, which might seem trivial, but was a deliberate choice of the original novelist, Michael Dobbs. It is nice to see they didn’t feel a need to change this.
The show went up on the NetFlix site on Feb 1, with the whole 13 episodes of the first series being available at once, for people to watch at their own rate. A second series is already on its way. This is certainly a new way to present TV drama – I’ve already read reports of people gorging themselves on the whole thing.
I’m rationing myself a little, having watched just 2 episodes last night, and planning to watch two more for each of the next few evenings.