Linking to Dan Hemmens’s takedown of the American version of House of Cards. I’m a big fan of the original series and was disappointed in the American version, for many of the reasons that Hemmens lists.
I have to add one observation–Hemmens notes that Uruqhart’s affability seduces the audience (as opposed to Underwood’s snarling big-boy act–Spacey makes evil seem so stressful), but he misses the difference between Uruqhart and Underwood’s victims, which is just as important. Many of Uruqhart’s victims are one-dimensional Tory scum–there’s the ultra-moronic one, the Jewish wet, the closety one, and the loud one that has to buy his own furniture. All of these men are at least as sleazy as Uruqhart, if not as clever, and it’s enjoyable to watch Uruqhart make ’em jump.
Underwood’s victims are teachers and dock workers, salt-of-the-earth stereotypes who are thrown into poverty through Underwood’s machinations. Even the congressman that he kills is a weak but nice guy who loves his momma and his children. Either the writers couldn’t get around to creating some hateful politicians for Underwood to bump off, or they genuinely think that Underwood’s screwing over of people with a hell of a lot less privilege than him makes him an admirable badass.* There’s an undercurrent that suggests that these people deserve to lose their livelihoods, because they’re just not as awesome as Underwood. Very different from watching various Tories get theirs. (A relative who enjoyed the Netflix series did so because he thought all Underwood’s deeds were leading up to his inevitable assassination, but presumably that will take another thirteen hours at least. Too long!)
Hemmens mentions that the Netflix series passes the Bechdel test. I give no points to House of Cards on this one. I have a problem with the Bechdel test, because while it does guarantee that men are not the center of a story’s world literally every single second, it doesn’t guarantee that women are portrayed as anything more than rock stupid, catty bitches. If the scenes that pass the Bechdel test are scenes where women catfight over pregnancy leave or spread incorrect information about abortion,** like they are in House of Cards, I’d rather the women just talk about how much they love men and cock and men.
* At some points, Spacey’s Underwood reminded me less of Uruqhart and more of The Thick of It‘s Malcolm Tucker, if The Thick of It was played absolutely not for laughs, ever, at all.
** Underwood’s wife, Claire, visits a fertility clinic near the end of the series. The female doctor there tells her that Claire’s past abortions will make it harder for her to have a child. Abortions, when performed safely, have a very low chance of affecting future fertility, so the medical information is not only incorrect, but it’s incorrect solely to punish Claire’s “bitchy” character for her past decisions (and it’s also silly, because Claire is going through menopause, which is obviously a larger fertility issue than any past abortions).