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
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links