So, in case you haven’t heard, the TV world is all abuzz over the new Netflix political drama House of Cards.
What’s telling, I think, is that so much of the buzz has nothing at all to do with quality of the show. Rather, the buzz is mostly about the fact that it’s the first show produced by Netflix, with all 13 episodes of the first season having been made immediately available for streaming.
In an interesting read in The Guardian, one British TV producer went so far as to bluntly say:
“I stayed up and watched three episodes in a row and I realised that I was watching the end of an era,” he said…
“This was something that was nothing to do with traditional broadcasting,” he added, comparing the service to being delivered an instant box set. “If I was a traditional broadcaster watching that I would have been shitting it if I saw that show.”
Ok, fine, but is it, the show, like, um, any good?
I’ve watched three episodes, really wanting to like it, since I have an interest in politics and LOVED the 1999–2006 series The West Wing, but, truth be told, I’m already done with House of Cards/
In order to describe why that is, I’ve worked out this simple mathematical equation:
Listen, all I have to do is read the news and a handful of political blogs to see all the ugly of Washington, D.C. And yet, I’m not saying that a show about politics should be sugar-coated beyond any sense of reality.
No, somewhere in the middle lies a creative mixture of the two, and to me, the most important element is sympathetic characters.
In my eyes, the best drama has at least one sympathetic central figure, someone the reader or viewer cares about, so that when something happens to that character, good or bad, or when that character does things, good or bad, we feel it more intensely because we care.
Watching House of Cards, there’s not one major character who pulls at my heartstrings, and the same goes for most of the secondary characters. I think to myself, “Self, why the HELL would you voluntarily choose to spend any time at all with these people?!”
Fortunately, The West Wing was recently added to Netflix for streaming, and so, when I feel a need for a dose of political drama, I can always revisit my old friends there, characters like Josh, Toby, C.J., Sam, Leo, Charlie and President Bartlett, characters who don’t always do the right thing, but characters whom I care about.
Otherwise, what’s the point?