Netflix’s House of Cards changed television from the onset and continues to be a game-changer. House of Cards was renewed for a third season before season two was made available. That is how sure Netflix is that the series will continue draw customers to its instant streaming service.
House of Cards is a high-quality political soap opera. The series was the first television series not made for television, but rather a paid online alternative to TV. Unlike traditional television series that air over several weeks, Netflix’s distribution model was to release all 13 House of Cards season one episodes at once so viewers could binge watch. The model will again be used for season two, which hits Netflix on February 14.
The series was an expensive risk for the Netflix. It reportedly cost over $100 million to produce two seasons. Netflix followed House of Cards with three other original series last year: Hemlock Grove, Orange Is the New Black and a resuscitated Arrested Development. Netflix’s gamble paid off, adding 2.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2013. The service now has more subscribers than HBO. House of Cards’ season two should be equally lucrative at encouraging people who had not subscribed before, or at least renewed contracts, when it is made available.
Another game-changer is that Kevin Spacey’s character, Francis J. “Frank” Underwood, talks directly to the audience. It takes getting used to, but adds extra sinister sauciness to some scenes.
The show demonstrated that Netflix can produce original material that is acclaimed by critics and the public alike. There was some question initially whether House of Cards would be eligible for awards as a television show. Then, the series was nominated for nine Emmys and took home three, including Best Director of a Drama Series win for David Fincher. Robin Wright followed up with the Best Actress in a TV Series, a Drama award at the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Claire Underwood, Frank’s wife. The accolades show the industry is taking Netflix seriously as a network broadcasting option.
House of Cards is a political drama adapted from a similarly named BBC miniseries about a member of Parliament and the party whip. The U.S. version is set in today’s highly politicalized Congress. The American series features more fleshed out characters, particularly the women. In both versions, which are available on Netflix, the Machiavellian backstabbing and manipulations are equally cunning and repulsive.
The main characters are Spacey’s wicked Frank Underwood, a South Carolina Congressman and House Majority Whip; Wright as his wife, who works for a non-profit when she is not helping his schemes; and Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a reporter who mixes thirst for a scoop with a fascination for Frank.
Season one dealt with Underwood plotting revenge for not being named Secretary of State. Season two reportedly involves a cyber-terrorism plot. Being renewed early spares viewers some suspense wondering if key characters survive when season two of House of Cards is available for binge watching sessions next week.
By Dyanne Weiss