This post reviews both the original UK “House of Cards” trilogy and season one of the American (2013) version.
House of Cards Trilogy (1990-1995)
The first series in this trilogy is a perfect miniseries. Francis Urquhart as played by Ian Richardson is one of the best antihero characters on TV. He is perfectly smooth, Machiavellian, and yet rootable for me. It is simply amazing how he played this part. It’s pitch perfect and nothing is wasted in the first series. I definitely think the first series is one of my favourite mini series ever and Urquhart is one of the most interesting TV characters.
When I started “House of Cards: To Play the King”, I realized early I wouldn’t like as much. It is basically an alternate universe of Britain at the time. It was strange seeing their version of Charles and Diana. I found it amusing that they kept calling Urquhart “FU”.
With “House of Cards: The Final Cut”, I was even less satisfied. In fact, I almost wish I had just stopped with the first series. This third series had more nudity and sex that felt unnecessary. Here, they continue the weird alternate universe Britain with Margaret Thatcher dieting almost twenty years before she actually does. Richardson looks like he aged 10 years since the first series. He looks positively ghoulish in this series and quite similar to Vincent Price. The smooth and confident Urquhart of the first series is gone. I was rather bored of this last installment.
Watched January 3-4, 2014.
House of Cards (2013) Season 1
I knew that this would not live up to the original House of Cards. I’ve never really loved Kevin Spacey for one thing, but I couldn’t resist seeing how this show adapted the original UK series.
Overally, this show is decidedly sleazier and more cynical than the original series in many ways. It has a great cast and the leads all deliver good performances. I will watch the second season though as it was good enough for it.
While I found Spacey’s acting was great, Frank was more aimless than the original Francis. His plan was not as good and consequently, not as entertaining to watch.
How this show was slightly better than the original:
- Frank and Claire’s relationship was interesting.
- Peter Russo is more interesting than Roger. The Stamper character too is better
- Rachel is a nice addition and so is Freddy. This was the only character to humanize Frank.
- The Underwood DC house is lovely albeit a bit cold.
- Better cinematography and music.
How this show is not at all better than the original
- It is too long and overloaded
- It’s not at all subtle
- The Kate Mara character has almost nothing on Susannah Harker’s Mottie Sorin
- Remy showing up all the damn time got boring fast.
- Claire’s story lines were overwrought and the ending cliche.
- The Apple product placement. I say this as an Apple person too.
All in all, I would recommend if you are interested in cynical political dramas and have some appreciation for the original.
Watched January 4-8, 2014.