The following was supposed to be an introduction to a series of posts on Ordinary Times about the American version of House of Cards. It never came to fruition, so I thought I would share it here:

I want to start the discussion of House of Cards out by talking about the basic plot that spanned the first two seasons. It’s not exactly novel to say that it’s very unrealistic. The only question is whether or not it was made better or worse by its fantastical elements.

In the British version, the question is basically asked “What if you had a Whip who was extremely intelligent as well as a ruthless psychopath?” Accepting those premises, it’s not hard to imagine events unfolding as they do in the story. On the other hand, the original version took four episodes to get where the American series took 26. Due to the logistics of American government, a longer road to the White House was a necessity, though another way of looking at it is that the number of episodes necessitated the long plot twists and turns.

The criticism I have here is that there were so many twists and turns that it became too unwieldy to account for in a plan that Frank could announce to his wife in the first episode. Anything above and beyond “I’m going to unseat the Vice President and then hope I take his place and then take down the President. The assumption that he would, in fact, be Matthews’ successor in the Vice Presidency was not a controllable circumstance no matter how smart you are. The mechanism by which he was able to receive advocacy within the Walker Administration (helping the Chief of Staff’s daughter get into Stanford) was unknown to him at the time.

On the other hand, unlike in Britain, we do not have a clean path from legislator to chief executive unless there is a vice presidential appointment involved, or the president and vice president were incapacitated or removed without sufficient time for a new vice president to be appointed. It is curious that they went the former route instead of the more direct path from Whip to Speaker to President. While not controllable, it is nonetheless more controllable than counting on a vice presidential appointment.

If it isn’t obvious by now, I found that the more fantastical elements of the plot hindered my enjoyment. I would have preferred a plot more specifically geared towards Underwood becoming Speaker of the House and based on some grudge involving the sitting Speaker. From that standpoint, you could have had a tigher plan and a tighter plot.

I have long since discovered that what I believe would be ideal and what the viewing public wants are two different things. We live in the age of the president, there is no doubt, and it might have been harder to garner interest if “all” that’s at stake is speakership. That might have flown when the speaker was a household name in the Gingrich years, but might be a harder sell today. On the other hand, it’s not hard to devise some sort of plot for taking the speakership in Season One and then working to eject the president and vice president (presumably in a unitary scandal in season two.

My own creative ruminations aside, however, I enjoyed the show in much the same guilty-pleasure sort of way that I enjoy Scandal. As ridiculous as it was at points, I did enjoy it from start to finish and will most assuredly watch Season Three.

On one last plot-related point, I was relieved that the president was not ejected by reason of the anti-depressant medications. I was afraid that’s where they were going to go with it and that might have been the final straw for me. We may have impeached a president for an extramarital affair, but that was only made possible by having him virtually dead to rights on having committed an underlying crime. Fundraising, though, is about the integrity of the office and while I don’t believe for a moment that events would have unfolded how they did in the program, it at least had an air of credibility. And a certain parallel with the Clinton impeachment as a focus on something frivolous turned into the revelation of something that (arguably) wasn’t.

Category: Theater

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One Response to The Irrelevant Ridiculousness of House of Cards

  1. Sheila Tone says:

    Sheez, whatever inspired you to even *think* about A SERIES OF POSTS on House of Cards?! Next up: Tone’s Treatise on The Inconsistent Underwater Physics of SpongeBob Squarepants, Part One of Six.
    HOC was an amusing little show, I’ll give it that.

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