HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

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HOUSE OF CARDS, is meant for the likes of me in one respect: I have recently streamed the entirety of shows like DOWNTON ABBEY, BREAKING BAD, SONS OF ANARCHY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES and the old and the new versions of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS.

I enjoy watching serialized shows that leave me wanting more, but because I waited I don’t have to wait.

Tensions built up over previous hours are instantly gratified with another hour, and so on… until all the hours are over and there is a profound sense of satisfaction and loss that there is no more.

So I’m a big fan of Netflix and genuinely want this kind of 13 episode drop of HOUSE OF CARDS to be a success, so we’ll get more of it in the future.

The problem with HOUSE OF CARDS though, is that it there is nothing that I really needed to have gratified after the first few episodes. There were no interesting characters I cared about, there was no clever plot I needed resolved, and there were no satisfying insights of the time and place.

Just a bunch of unlikely stuff happening to a bunch of unlikely people who I didn’t give a shit about.

If you like acting and actors Kevin Spacey (Frank Underwood) and Robin Wright (Claire Underwood) are as good as anybody, but their characters are two-dimensional psycho power-crazed nut-jobs who stick together like a pair of serial killers, and manipulate anyone who gets in the way of their grand plan.

For Congressman Frank Underwood it’s revenge for being passed over for Secretary of State in a new president’s cabinet, and a reacceleration of his career trajectory to where he believe it belongs. For Claire it’s the advancement of the clean water non-profit organization she heads. The two are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. If they can help themselves by helping each other, great, if not, screw them too.

In one scene, Claire sadistically gives her former bodyguard, in hospice for cancer, a hand job under the sheets, after he professes his unrequited love for her. Asking, “Is this what you wanted?” While explaining why she chose her husband as her life partner over the likes of the man dying in the bed in front of her.

And she didn’t even finish him off!

Bitch.

There’s no tragedy in Claire or Frank just self-absorbed assholery; and therefore, nothing to root for. No humanity to redeem.

Not even among the plot devices secondary characters. Everyone around Frank and Claire just lets themselves be manipulated and abused and does nothing about it. They all just lie there and get wanked around.

And that’s it. The show might be good if others fought or manipulated back. If there was true political intrigue. If HOUSE OF CARDS took a cue from GAME OF THRONES and Frank and Claire’s opposition pawns were at least somewhat formidable. But they aren’t. For the most part, they just take it.

After the first few episodes I realized that HOC lacked tension. That I really didn’t care if I found out what happened next. That the only reason I was watching the next episode was not that I had to see what happened next and I was relieved that the next one was already there waiting to be seen.

I was watching it just because it was all there and I had to finish it, like a new version of World of Warcraft.

In my quest to become a level 13 lawful evil streamer, I actually lost respect for myself. I’ll watch anything. I have no standards. Maybe I should start drinking again….

Don’t end up like me (hic!). For a truly satisfying experience, I recommend the British version. In fact, you can watch the whole thing on Netflix.

No waiting.

–Dan D.

Will Marathon Viewing Become the TV Norm?

We think this is an issue worth discussing. We also think that the answer to the question will be “no,” at least in terms of the general – as in casual – audience. But true believer fans have always been marathon viewers. And now it’s become so much easier!

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by John Farier (Neatorama.Com)

I used to watch new episodes of my favorite shows every week on television. Now I watch one show, episode by episode, in sequence and on a computer screen. Then the next show. According to New York Times reporter Brian Stelter, that’s become normal:

Binge-viewing, empowered by DVD box sets and Netflix subscriptions, has become such a popular way for Americans to watch TV that it is beginning to influence the ways the stories are told — particularly one-hour dramas — and how they are distributed. […]

On Friday, Netflix will release a drama expressly designed to be consumed in one sitting:“House of Cards,” a political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Rather than introducing one episode a week, as distributors have done since the days of black-and-white TVs, all 13 episodes will be streamed at the same time. “Our goal is to shut down a portion of America for a whole day,” the producer Beau Willimon said with a laugh.

“House of Cards,” which is the first show made specifically for Netflix, dispenses with some of the traditions that are so common on network TV, like flashbacks. There is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes, the producers say, because so many viewers will have just seen it. And if they don’t remember, Google is just a click away. The show “assumes you know what’s happening all the time, whereas television has to assume that a big chunk of the audience is always just tuning in,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.

Television producers now have to grapple with customers who won’t even start watching a series until it’s over:

Some hoarders wait years: Mr. Mazzara, for instance, said he’s waiting to watch HBO’s “Girls” until the whole series is over, several years from now. This stockpiling phenomenon has become so common that some network executives worry that it is hurting new shows because they cancel the shows before would-be viewers get around to watching them.

Economist Tyler Cowen reflects on this trend and notes where immediate sequentialization does and does not work:

You can buy an entire book at once, as serialization — while not dead — has ceased to be the norm for long novels.  At MOMA they do not run an art exhibit by putting up one new van Gogh painting each day.  Coursera, you will note, still uses a kind of serialization model for its classes rather than putting up all the lectures at once; presumably it wishes to synchronize student participation plus it often delivers the content in real time.  Sushi is served sequentially, even though several cold courses presumably could be carried over at once.  Still, a plate in an omakase experience typically has more than one piece of fish.

For TV I do not think upfront bingeing can become the norm.  The model of “I don’t really care about this, but I have nothing much to talk to you about, so let’s sit together and drop commentary on some semi-randomly chosen TV show” seems to work less well when the natural unit of the show is thirteen episodes and you are expected to show dedication.

BINGE WATCHING is the Phrase of the Day

…And ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is its prophet. Or something like that.

‘Arrested Development’ and How the Rise of Binge Watching Is Changing TV – by John Lichman

Everyone, it seems, has the TV show they’re working on.  We’ve gone from expecting a new episode of our favorite show every week and appointment viewing to having a favorite show years after it first aired.  Binge viewing is now the way of life.

“Arrested Development” is seeing a spike in new binge viewers.  The revived cult sitcom is currently filming alongside a flurry of twitpics and social media updates that are fitting for a program that returns next spring after seven years off the air thanks to Netflix’s continuing experiment with original programming. But just what has binge viewing done to us as consumers since the days The Bluth Family was thrown around Fox scheduling from Sundays to Friday nights and then taken from us completely?

Well, let’s back up. Binge viewing is the coined term du jour for when new viewers are catching up with hopelessly complex shows, or programs open for cultish debate — ones ranging from “Lost” to “The Wire” to the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” — that have given many not just an enduring second life on home video or streaming but has allowed for a different viewing experience that the original staggering out of episodes over weeks and months.

The biggest difference that this original programming from Netflix represents, starting with “Lilyhammer” and continuing with “Arrested Development” and upcoming new series “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black”and “Hemlock Grove,” is to forego traditional concepts of release and provide instant gratification for viewers. Speaking recently to Vulture, “Arrested Development” co-creator and showrunner Mitch Hurwitz went into detail about the fluid nature of the streaming development:

Our initial order is for ten, but the beauty of Netflix is that we theoretically have an opportunity to provide more material for them. We’re definitely shooting some special material just for them. But their whole outlook completely mirrors the ambitions of this show.

Read it all

LILYHAMMER? LILYHAMMER? They mentioned LILYHAMMER in the same article as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT? What’s wrong with those H’wood Reporter people? Why can’t they get it? Of all the lameass–

Sorry, sometimes our principles just carry us away. We kinda binge on ’em, you know?

Production Has Started on New Episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

To be precise, it started yesterday, under the supervision of creator Mitch Hurwitz hisself, with the full original cast expected to participate in the Netflix produced/presented version of the Fox cult series. (Truly a cult fave. Not just words, those.)

Word is that Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi, David Cross, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, and Tony Hale are all expected to have their new moments in the sun thanks to a concept that calls for each new episode to track one member of the Bluth family, with multiple family members showing up in special episodes.

Look for 10 new eps to be available on Netflix in 2013. And while you’re at it, see if you can manifest a few more. We’re sure concentrating mightily.

Our fists are clenched so tightly that we’re bleeding all over the keyboard. (Aargh!)