Friday, Feb. 8, 2013

House of Cards UK

By David Luhrssen
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 “House of Cards” is one of the most talked about new TV shows, not only because it represents Netflix’s foray into original programming, but for the Kevin Spacey’s brilliance as a Machiavellian political operator deep within the sanctums of power in Washington. Fans of British television will remember the original “House of Cards” from the 1990s, aired stateside on PBS. That series is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.

The UK “House of Cards” stars Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart. He is narrator and manipulator, a political insider accustomed to pulling wires from backstage with a grievance against the new Prime Minister, whom he had helped usher into No. 10 Downing Street. Encouraged by his ambitious wife, he constructs a Byzantine plot to bring down the PM through manipulating the news media, blackmail and staging embarrassments for his hapless foe—all the while pretending to be his ally. Urquhart is a likable patrician rogue, wilier than the foxes that roam his country estate. Even his smile casts a sinister shadow.

Based on the novel by Michael Dobbs and written by Andrew Davies, who went on to the clever but less substantial Bridget Jones Diary, “House of Cards” is animated by pungent humor and the unblinking cynicism of its narrator, who often addresses the camera as if letting us in on the dirty secrets of power and the often grubby pack of gladhanders that wield it. It’s engrossing television.

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