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
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
exhibition Gillian Orr traces the movement from Bram Stoker to Kate Bush
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone