Thursday, 21 February 2013

When the remake is better

We see a steady stream of TV programmes from the UK crossing the Atlantic and being remade for a US audience. Often the result is to water down the original, or to lose the point of the show. I would be hard pressed to think of a remake done this way that was better than the original... until now.

I was a great fan of the Michael Dobbs 1990 TV drama and books House of Cards with its scheming chief whip (and, eventually, Prime Minister) Francis Urquhart. Everything about it was superb. Ian Richardson made a brilliant Machiavellian villain, and the show was groundbreaking in its use of direct access to the camera, with Richardson making asides to the audience and giving us wonderful knowing looks. And, of course there was that catchphrase 'You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.'

Now Netflix has remade the programme from the original shortish series to a 13 part epic starring Kevin Spacey. And it is excellent. Although the original was great, this is genuinely better. It's more sophisticated, more complex and brilliantly done. Spacey, as Francis Underwood (presumably Urquhart was too difficult a name) has that same ruthless charm and uses the camera aside to great effect.

I've had Netflix for a while now, and am very impressed with it, but never expected they would produce their own drama of this quality - well done guys.

There is only one slight problem with the storyline, which will involve a spoiler, so I will briefly discuss that further down the page - otherwise this piece is finished.

Image from Wikipedia

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One of the most interesting aspects of the new series was how it would end. The original book had Urquhart commit suicide at the end, when the house of cards collapses. But in the TV show he throws the reporter off the tower of Westminster Palace, gets away with it and goes on to become Prime Minister. (Hence the two subsequent novels are follow ups to the TV show, rather than the first novel.) The Netflix series does neither, but ends unresolved just before the house of cards collapses. Arggh! Nasty people. Hopefully that means there will be a sequel.

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