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Posted at 07:47 PM ET, 02/05/2013

Television’s house of cards


Kevin Spacey in a scene from Netflix's "House of Cards." (Melinda Sue Gordon - Netflix)

Netflix’s original series, “House of Cards” has not been entirely panned — welcome news to those eager to see the traditional television model topple, much like, well, a house of cards.

The cord-cutting revolution continues to generate more viewers who, tired of paying $100-plus per month for cable and Internet, have eliminated their cable subscriptions and replaced them with on-demand services, such as Netflix and HuluPlus. But cord cutters are still barred from getting popular shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Dexter,” since access to premium cable channels needs, well, a cable subscription.

Now, it’s the worst-kept secret that cord-cutters share passwords to access this programming via services such as HBOGo — which of course is a serious rights violation. Why increase your cable bill by $60 or more when you can pay your friend, let’s call him Phil, five bucks (or a drink every now and again), to access all of the shows? You’re happy. Phil’s happy. And you can both chat about what happened on “Californication” over that drink you bought Phil.

Never mind that it’s almost certainly illegal.

But, back to “House of Cards” — a remake of the BBC miniseries of the same name — which stars Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey and is available only to Netflix subscribers. The show is a dark political drama set in Washington, D.C., where Spacey plays a congressman denied an appointment to become the next secretary of state. The show premiered during the same week as then-Sen. John Kerry’s confirmation hearings to become secretary of state. All 13 episodes of the show were made available at once — a tip of the hat to the binge-viewing practiced by many Netflix subscribers.

As Graeme McMillan writes for Wired:

If this were a traditional television series, I would have had to wait a week between the first and second episodes, and that would’ve colored my feelings about it rather differently. Being able to watch the next installment immediately after the first made me retroactively like the premiere more; I got to the pay-off more quickly, and to a second episode with more momentum and less awkward exposition.

The Associated Press’s Frazier Moore put it simply: “I binged. ... Then I licked the bowl.

While reviews of the show have been mixed (not everyone likes Spacey’s straight-to-camera delivery or the Beau Willimon-penned script), it has not been panned, leaving oxygen for talk of whether the show is, in fact, the future of television. Can Netflix topple the cable empire? If so, it will take more than “House of Cards,” two other Netflix original series (“Orange Is the New Black” and “Hemlock Grove”) and the premier of the much-anticipated fourth season of the Fox-cancelled “Arrested Development” to do it.

But, as Nancy Hass writes for GQ, “it’s only a matter of time, and not much of it, before companies like Netflix and its phalanx of young and restless programmers and subscribers throw Hollywood off schedule permanently.”

When they do, it’s likely that “House of Cards” will be pointed to as the one small nudge for the digital-native kind that sent traditional programming’s own house of cards tumbling down.

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By  |  07:47 PM ET, 02/05/2013

 
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