There's nothing more gripping than a political drama revolving around the maneuverings of the third most powerful man in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It's a testament to the writers of the Netflix serial House of Cards that they have made it riveting. Kevin Spacey stars as Frank Underwood, the House Majority Whip and a Democrat. Yes, in this story the Democrats run the House, so you know it's fiction.
Otherwise, House of Cards has the feel of real politics. Spacey and his wife Claire, played with ice in her veins by Robin Wright (no Princess Bride this time), are after power at all costs. At one point in the first episode, Frank tells the camera, "I love that woman. I love her like a shark loves blood."
Frank talks directly into the camera from time to time, usually to fill us in on what he's thinking and how one move sets up the next. Each aside is like a short lesson in politics. Frank is accumulating and spending political capital right and left, moving the pieces on his literal and imaginary chessboard.
This is Netflix's first try at producing its own content and they deserve credit for attempting something different, putting all thirteen episodes up on their site at once. That's dangerous because with so many people I know obsessed with the show, you would think there would be spoiler alerts flying right and left. But, now approaching episode eleven, Dianne and I are still on the edge of our seats. House of Cards is anything but predictable.
There are no good guys fighting bad guys. Everybody's a little bit bad if not really awful. If anything, the series shows that you can keep people watching even when there's really virtually no character that you want to cheer for. Viewers just become entranced by the question of what they'll do to each other next. It's a pit of very attractive vipers.
The series goes against all the recent tenets of TV success. It's about politics. The lead character doesn't solve crimes with DNA tests. Nobody's trying to lose weight or stay on the island. It has to be incredibly expensive to produce with big name stars, a large cast and a lot of on location filming in Washington, New York and some other places. The writing is excellent and the plots are complicated but (except for a glaring exception in episode 10 -- I won't spoil it) credible.
In short, House of Cards dares to treat viewers like intelligent adults. For those of us waiting (and waiting) for our next fix of Mad Men or Curb Your Enthusiasm this will more than tide you over.