on 15 April 2006
The House of Cards saga is a tremendous achievement in television: expert direction including the use of 'piece to camera' monologues, beautifully constructed tension and an acting triumph by the main player, Ian Richardson. If shows like the West Wing capture our ideal politics, then House of Cards drenches it all in filthy water.
It is the story of naked, ruthless ambition in British politics that shows a staggering realism whilst at the same time allowing for dramatic flights of story. Richardson's Urquart is beautifully played, and the character makes me uneasy in the same way that the Shield's Vic Mackey does: you absolutely know he's a villain, he has done despicable things but damn.
My only wish for television these days is that they invest in drama like this: it is a thoroughly watchable drama, and gets the full five stars for being so.
on 25 October 2008
Sorry about the title but it seems so apt - "After it, therefore because of it". I first saw this series when first broadcast way back when and I remember it being brilliant. However I have, in similar fashion, bought other series and programs from my dim and distant past released on DVD and been bitterly disappointed when I watched them (testament to a fading memory or a desperate attempt to cling on to my childhood). One or two exceptions (Edge of Darkness and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy being most notable) kept my faith. So, I bought it, unwrapped it, placed it in my DVD player and instantly lost the next 4 hours of my life! It is quite simply the best British TV drama the BBC has ever produced! Forget period time pieces (yes, ladies, even Mr. Darcy climbing out of a lake) this is the most engaging TV I have ever seen. Ian Richardson inexorably draws you in to his spider's web of intrigue, you become complicit when he confides in you directly through the camera and you end each episode feeling vaguely guilty and you're not sure why! If you remember HoC first time around, buy it! If you didn't see it first time around, buy it! If you simply appreciate first class, gripping drama and first rate acting, buy it! Otherwise, buy it anyway!
on 22 July 2004
The House of Cards Trilogy must surely be rated as one of the best contemporary dramas ever made. Ian Richardson's performance is simply breathtaking, and Andrew Davies' scripts the work of a true genius. As well as the stunning central performance by Richardson, the cast and crew as a whole deserve great praise.
And there's a bonus in the shape of commentaries over the first episode of each of the three series by Richardson, Davies and Producer Ken Riddington, which are both enlightening and at times amusing.
Would I recommend the purchase of this DVD set? You might very well think that...
on 20 July 2004
Everything has been said about the artistic merits of this series. Yes, the acting is fantastic, yes the dialogue is sharp, sarcastic and very eloquent and the characters are just wonderfully entertaining to watch. But there are three main reasons why this series is legendary. First, the actual events overtaking the original broadcast with the resignation of Margaret Thatcher, second, the fantastic Ian Richardson, and third, the direct-to-camera acting of the main character, dragging the audience into his evil deeds. I taped the series when it was broadcast over here in Germany, I bought the tapes from the BBC and finally I own the whole thing on DVD. I know it by heart anyway, because I must have seen it a thousand times, and I'm still not tired of it, because Richardson alone makes this so entertaining.
Although the first installment is widely regarded to be the best, i agree with the first two episodes. They are the best of the whole series, and the finale on the rooftop is just shocking, but the overall best series for me always has been "To play the king" because Michael Kitchen is just fabulous as the monarch and strong opponent to Urquhart. The last series "The final cut" has this air of sadness all through it, and is basically a farewell to Urquharts character. He gets what he deserves for sure, but the viewer is left oddly unsatisfied with the end. It's just sad in my view. Overall it is almost eleven hours of high quality political satire with shocking moments, unforgettable bonmots and the best British acting has to offer.
We watched this astonishing series over three white-knuckle days, drawn immediately into the corrupt, cynical, ambitious, frightening, murderous, elegant world of Francis Urqhuart as easily as flies drawn into a spider's web! This is so beautifully plotted, magnificently performed and brilliantly scripted that you run out of superlatives. It also has a marvellously intriguing ''alternative history'' feel that works really well because it evokes both the distant past--the trilogy is stuffed full of Jacobean allusions and atmosphere--but also the less distant past, like the post-Thatcher era, and the present. Political thrillers don't get much better than this!
on 26 May 2013
PLEASE don't confuse this superlative production with the 2013 US version. The story, plot, players & production was one of the reasons that British TV had such an admirable reputation (alas this reputation has been severely soiled in the last few years as the programme commissioners search JUST for audience ratings of the couch potato generation. These 3 TV series capture all the vileness latent in politics, the dishonesty in business & power brokers & though it catches the era succinctly is also a timeless comment on life. Should be part of the curriculum for anyone studying modern history, business, journalism or politics
on 8 March 2014
This excellent series is marred by the fact that the three DVD's have no marking on them to indicate which is the first, second or third in the series. In addition I have discoverd that they are double sided, again with no indication to say so. How are we supposed to kjnow which DVD we need to load into the player if we have nothing to tell us on the DVD? Had I known this was so badly presented I would not have bought it. Shame on you BBC!
on 4 July 2004
House of cards is a classic (real old school bbc)
It details the rise and rise of Ian Richardson character through the houses of Parliament, a dark and dangerous place that has a lot of sharks and predators waiting for the unwary. As the story unfolds thought his interaction with Susannah Harker's character you find out the he is the biggest predator of them all.
The acting of the two main stars is fantastic, as is the dialog. Giving us such memorable lines as
"You might say that, I couldn't possibly comment" which deserves to go down in history with such lines as "Broadsword calling Danny-Boy"
A great series, of political goings on, a lot darker and griping than The West Wing and the likes.
on 6 July 2007
Gripping! I will not repeat what others have said here, some of the best television I have seen in a long time.
What if Shakespeare's Lord and Lady Macbeth had been temporally transported into twenty-first century Britain? They would certainly be reincarnated into the insidious Francis Urquhart and his formidable spouse Elizabeth. In their new personae, 'MacUrquhart' would still be haunted by guilty visions but would shed any qualms about committing murder in the interests of power, and 'Lady MacUrquhart' would waste no more time sleepwalking but sustain her role as the actual but invisible control over the man with titular authority.
The "House of Cards Trilogy," which includes "To Play the King" and "Final Cut," not only portrays such a ghastly scenario, but also demonstrates the disastrous consequences for a post-modern Britain when such a pair first insinuates itself into a position of power and then seizes and maintains an unrelenting grip on that power, even if, in the final analysis, it has to provoke a bloody war to do so. Thanks to Andrew Davies' darkly comedic script, Ian Richardson's brilliant portrayal of Francis, and a splendid supporting cast, the viewer is locked in suspense and held in a state somewhere between laughing and cringing at the political shenanigans, too many of which resound with an uncomfortable ring of contemporary probability.
The humor derives from Richardson as Francis, who ruptures the invisible barrier between illusion and reality by taking the audience into his confidence. In "House of Cards" he does this with such wry wit that viewers are drawn easily into his thrall, so much so that despite their better natures and common sense, they find themselves liking and identifying with this charming unapologetic scoundrel. Somewhere in the middle of "To Play the King," however, they realize, to their increasing horror, that by sharing in his most intimate thoughts, they have actually become co-conspirators in the machinations of Urquhart, who in a literal blink of the eye transforms congeniality into the mesmerizing malevolence of a king cobra. By the time they have become absorbed in the plot of "Final Cut," they are inextricably tied to Urquhart's fate, as on a runaway train. Thus the scenario becomes metaphorical for the public's unfortunate propensity to be seduced by plausible but unscrupulous politicians who draw them into situations that they might not realize are unsupportable until it is too late. The repeated use in "To Play the King" of Urquhart's initials, F.U., illustrates this proposition.
The late Ian Richardson's ability to keep the audience enthralled in the destiny of this despicable rogue testifies to his incomparable subtlety as an actor, who will be sorely missed. The lynchpin of the tale, Richardson is amply supported by an ensemble cast, including Diane Fletcher as his horrific wife; Colin Jeavens as Tim Stamper, his `whip' who wields 'a bit of stick'; Nicholas Grace as Stamper's toadying successor, Geoffrey Booza-Pitt; and Nick Brimble as the sinister Corder. Among Urquhart's memorable victims are Michael Kitchen as the well-meaning king, Susanna Harker as the unstable Mattie Storrin, Kitty Aldrich as the altruistic Sarah, to name only a few. All characters in this cautionary tale are vulnerable to the enticements of power, even those who begin as honest idealists. When Corder informs the nobly motivated Tom Makepeace, who eventually succeeds Urquhart as leader of the party, that "we"--meaning Corder, Elizabeth, and the rest--are "right behind" him, one understands the story's message that all politicians, even those with the best of motives, are liable to being corrupted absolutely by the acquisition of absolute power.