Your Weekend Viewing Recommendation
I’d like to direct your attention to Alyssa Rosenberg’s appreciation of “House of Cards,” a decades-old political drama from our cousins at the BBC. Francis Urqhart, the show’s protagonist, is one of the great political anti-heroes of modern television:
The circumstances are these. The whip, Francis Urquhart, helps get a fairly weak Prime Minister elected, only to find himself left out in the cold when said PM decides not to appoint him to a Cabinet position on the grounds that reshuffles show weakness, telling him “Do you remember MacMillan? The night of the long knives?” That rejection turns Urquhart irrevocably against an ally he never particularly respected, and he sets out, with absolute glee in the brutality necessary, to take the PM down.That nastiness is one part of the puzzle. Americans may continue to be surprised when governors hike the Appalachian Trail, or flirt with pages, or attempt to manipulate the hell out of reporters, or enjoy the fruits of high office a little bit too much, and our art has to assume that same state of shock. Urquhart assumes all of those things are true. He’s a man who cheerfully uncovers an operative’s cocaine addiction and turns it to his own purposes, encouraging the man to pimp out his girlfriend to one of Urquhart’s rivals. He blackmails a faltering MP into voting for an energy bill when he discovers the man was stopped for soliciting prostitutes—then tells the fellow that he’ll happily provide him a list with appropriately discreet hookers. Urquhart even, in one of the reminders that the series is 20 years old, sets up a false account to create the impression that the PM is involved in insider trading from his own home phone. He names fools for what they are so the audience can benefit from his expertise in recognizing them. His political strength is assuming the worst about absolutely everyone, and by having more dire definitions of worse than many people can imagine.