Grace Dent on TV: House of Cards

Yes, it heralds a TV revolution, but that's no excuse for filming it with the lights off

Last week a whole new distinctly thrilling way of watching television – one which changes TV forever – appeared, to the oddly muffled sounds of very few people giving a stuff. OK, some TV nerds like myself got giddy and cyber-hugged each other on Twitter. Yet, in the main, Britain did not acknowledge season one – all 13 hours –of spanking new Kevin Spacey drama House of Cards being available on Netflix. They did not feel change blowing in the air and feel “the future”. Oh no, perhaps they were staring sadly at the ITV1 Splash! finale feeling sorry for Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards's poor, long-suffering family as he declared diving to be his NEW purpose in life. No sleep till Rio, Eddie! Other TV junkies were possibly engrossed by new E! show Chasing The Saturdays which follows largely anonymous girlband The Saturdays – universally agreed to be one of the most futile pop combos to ever slather lip gloss – as they plan to break America. Britain is done and dusted, y'see? Mollie, Wotserface, her with the short hair, the one who is inexplicably a decade older than the others and the other one, um, no idea what she's called, let's call her Whizz Bang McFlaps. Anyhow, their quest for worldwide fame continues.

So while digital TV did its usual thing, Netflix – the online TV and film library – launched House of Cards. It's a remake of the famous 1990 BBC drama with Ian Richardson which it's customary in learned circles to claim one loved without possibly ever seeing and only actually knowing the "you might say that, I couldn't possibly comment" catchphrase. Crucially, Netflix gave us "the lot". Wallop. Yes, a subscription fee needs to be paid – which will no doubt infuriate that demographic that feels robbing everything off the internet is a human right – but the subscription gives access to a zillion other things, and one can snap shut the blinds, gather near some snacks, feign to loved ones you had one of your "migraines" and binge on an entire "box set".

Netflix finished making House of Cards and KERPOW, it was yours. It wasn't drip-fed over 13 weeks to America on HBO, then transferred months later to a BBC4 slot where it clogged up your Sky+ box. Nor was it shown weekly on C4 with the DVD box set scheduled for Amazon release sometime in Christmas 2014. House of Cards is right now, right here, showing on one of the internet's most swishy, user-friendly sites, seductively loading one episode instantly after another and never losing your place, not even if your laptop is snatched by a hurricane. This form of TV bingeing makes following normal television seem, by comparison, a massive, drawn-out hassle.

I only wish that I loved House of Cards more. If you are a fan of dark political intrigue you'll adore this. I mean dark morals but also drama shot mostly in the dark, because Washington DC during House of Cards is seemingly experiencing the same conversion to duff eco-lightbulbs that poor Sarah Lund in The Killing toils under. Kevin Spacey plays Francis "Frank" Underwood, an eerily power-hungry Democratic Congressman who – in the first moments of episode one – is denied a promised promotion to become Secretary of State and vows to get revenge. Episode one features acres of US political jargon and legal detail, back and forth sparring, stabs in the back, double-bluffs.

Some viewers will adore this, I feel millions more may trail away by episode three with a quiet mumble of, "oh Frank, get over it'. This is The West Wing – during a power cut – with no heart, only various shades of bitterness, prostitute humping and controlled-substance abuse.

Kate Mara plays Zoe Barnes, a rookie reporter for The Washington Herald who, after watching the 2013 inauguration storms into the news office (three PCs, a photocopier and a watercooler; my student newspaper in 1997 was more deluxe). "Let me write a blog about what's really happening in Washington DC," Zoe pleads to her editor. A blog? In 2013? He can't quite wrap his mind around it, scrunching his face like she's announced her plans to display her bumcheeks daily on Capitol Hill. In reality journalists on most large newspapers have been tormented to blog their every waking brain-fart for the past seven years. A bright young thing like Zoe would have been running her own blog since she was 18 and living off the ad revenue.

Frank and Zoe instantly team up, him leaking, her printing, him destroying rivals' lives, her gaining the glory. Meanwhile a tired old female old-school print hack (aged approx 31) attacks Zoe in the office with 'who are you screwing to get your stories?' before returning to her sad 1960s office cubicle and her ball-point pen. OK, it's a drama. Not a documentary. This is like when I become angry at the Batman franchise as I find the concept of a man keeping a bulky bat fancy-dress costume in his apartment quite unfeasible. Go and decide for yourself. It's yours, right now. If you have a spare 13 hours, anyway.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker