Ask almost anyone about 'House of Cards" and the first thing you're bound to hear is how devilish Kevin Spacey is in the role of manipulative congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood. (I have binge watched the Netflix season one and I agree). Spacey's performance is without question masterful. The rest of the actors, including Robin Wright as the cold-as-ice wife who is a willing participant in her husband's schemes, are perfectly cast. The contemporary Netflix series has worked so well that just as the second season is about to premier, the online content behemoth has already announced there will be a third season of the show. Great for the cast, great for the viewers. And I look forward to it all.
In spite of the hoopla surrounding the series, it's the original 1990 BBC production starring Ian Richardson that handily trumps the 2013 American version. I invite you to tune to KCET and Link TV on Sunday, February 9 for a four-episode marathon of the first season of BBC's original "House of Cards," starting at 7 p.m.
Viewers were shocked and thrilled by what they saw because what happened on screen (the downfall of the Conservative Party's Prime Minister) mirrored what happened when Margaret Thatcher resigned in-between the first two episodes of the political thriller. There's good reason the show captured the backroom drama of British politics: "House of Cards" was based on a novel written by Michael Dobbs, who had served as the former Chief of Staff of the Conservative Party.
The late Ian Richardson is sublime as the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. While Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood as a vicious schemer in the Netflix model, Richardson portrays Francis Urquhart as a man who relishes the mayhem he stealthily unleashes. (Richardson was a famous Shakespearean stage actor and his into-camera asides -- sometimes spoken, sometimes announced with the arch of his eyebrow -- are startling. There's plenty of dialogue that stands out: "You might well think that. I couldn't possibly comment" is one. When pressed by fellow politicians about the possibility Urquhart could be a candidate for the position of Prime Minister, Richardson demures. Lying through his teeth but coming off as absolutely sincere, Urquhart says "Me? Well, I'm just a backroom boy".
Enjoy the first four episodes of "House of Cards" this Sunday on KCET and on Link TV starting at 7:00 PM. Get in on the binge-watching. And then, let us know what you think.