Sunday, December 29, 2013

House of Cards - Part 2/2

As the second part of my House of Cards "review", I'm going to talk about the US remake of the books/BBC series, which aired on Netflix earlier this year, and which has a second series which will premiere on February 14th, 2014 (what a lovely Valentine's present!).

Kevin Spacey takes the reigns as the Democrat majority whip in the House of Representatives, Frank Underwood (as opposed to Ian Richardson's Tory Chief Whip, Francis Urquhart). While it would be easy to scoff that "Urquhart" is too difficult for the Americans to get their heads round (see "Local Hero", for example!), the name Underwood is a reference to Oscar Underwood, the first Democrat whip in Congress.

With the action switched from Downing Street and the Commons to the White House and Capitol Hill, the US series sees Underwood passed over for promotion to Secretary of State (US equivalent to the UK's Foreign Secretary) by the incoming Democrat president. Underwood, with the encouragement of his wife, Claire, sets about to seek revenge, discrediting the President's nomination for Secretary of State and enlisting washed-up drug-addicted congressman Peter Russo as a pawn, assisted by his utterly loyal Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper (changed from Urquhart's deputy chief whip, Tim Stamper).

Journalist Mattie Storin from the original becomes Zoe Barnes in the US reboot - she and Underwood begin a brief affair, which is only slightly less disturbing than in the UK version, which includes Storin's apparent Electra complex, calling Urquhart "Daddy". The iconic ending of the original series is changed - due to the fact that further episodes are to follow in the Netflix adaptation. There's no Congressional roof garden to match that on top of the Houses of Parliament (which, by the way, is completely fictitious - though you can get on the roof... I've been!).

Is the US version as good as the British one? Without a doubt, but they are completely different beasts, taken from the same source material. Each is very enjoyable, when one doesn't spend too long cross-comparing them. Spacey's portrayal of FU is a completely different approach to the one taken by Richardson, but they're both played sublimely. I do miss the fact that the British version (particularly the interactions between Urquhart and Stamper) is as camp as Christmas/Keswick, but Spacey's channelling of Richard III is incredibly believable. And there's something of Richardson about him when he does the trademark fourth-wall-breaking remarks to camera.

And, the biggest question of them all is... does Kevin Spacey still manage to pull off the infamous catchphrase of FU?

You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

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