Americans have done what Americans are wont to do, and reinvented another classic of British television.
The Kevin Spacey version of House of Cards has been characterised as The West Wing meets The Sopranos. That’s high praise indeed, considering the calibre of the latter two TV series (not that I’ve ever watched The Sopranos, but one hears things).
House of Cards focuses on an ambitious and unscrupulous politician, Francis Underwood (FU for short.) Like the eponymous Richard III in Shakespeare’s play, FU is Machiavellian in his pursuit of power, and he often speaks to camera in a way reminiscent of Shakespearean soliloquy. Here’s a preview:
The series is based loosely on Michael Dobbs’ novel of the same name, but it’s more accurately an adaption of the 1990 BBC mini-series starring Ian Richardson. I watched this at uni, and loved it. For years since, I’ve looked for it online, to no avail. But a month ago, the entire series — and its two (inferior but still okay) sequels — were uploaded onto Youtube in their entirety.
In the British version, FU stands for Francis Urquhart. Ian Richardson’s portrayal is a more ironic than Spacey’s performance — you could even say it’s comic — but Richardson’s FU is nonetheless one of the most sinister characters I’ve seen on screen. Suave, cunning, and downright evil. He’s nothing short of diabolical.
If you’ve got a few hours to kill some time — and especially if you have an iPad or other tablet handy — watch the BBC’s House of Cards. Twenty-three years on, it’s still great TV!