Netflix has come a long way since its red-envelope days. Having invested heavily in the realm of streaming video, Netflix has begun to create original programming. Their first effort, which premiered last week, is "House of Cards," a political drama starring Kevin Spacey.
"The West Wing" and, more recently, "Lincoln" have proven that parliamentary procedure can make for gripping entertainment, at least when written by the likes of Aaron Sorkin or Tony Kushner, and when starring such talents as Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Daniel Day-Lewis, etc. "House of Cards" continues the tradition.
Kevin Spacey, of course, is the main draw. He plays Congressman Francis Underwood, a South Carolina Democrat and the majority whip (yes, in this universe, Democrats control the House of Representatives). After the newly-elected President reneges on a campaign promise to appoint him Secretary of State, Underwood, aided by his wife Claire (Robin Wright) and an ambitious young reporter (Kate Mara) commences a plot to thwart the new administration.
Underwood is a character straight out of Tennessee Williams. Alone among the cast, he breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience in flowery monologues, explicating his Machiavellian plots. How good an actor is Spacey? Well, let me put it this way: I've seen many an actor cry on cue. In an episode of "House of Cards" wherein Underwood suddenly finds himself on the defensive during a debate, Spacey--in extreme close-up--begins to sweat on cue, and not just, like, a trickle down the side of his face; rather, his entire face suddenly glistens as he stumbles over his prepared remarks.
Another member of the cast worth mentioning is Corey Stoll, who plays Pennsylvania Congressman Peter Russo. Russo is an pportunistic, weak-willed, womanizing alcoholic and drug addict--and yet, for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, he's downright likable. Probably because, while we find ourselves in awe of Underwood's silky-smooth operations, the flawed Russo is someone we can actually identify with.