Has this Bird just lost her mind?!! If you've been like a lot of people with the power of Netflix and the Internets, you've been watching the series, House of Cards, which is the only way you'll truly appreciate this completely irreverent, nonsensical illustration. It's one of the best things not on television right now, but thanks to new media and entertainment outlets like video streaming, House of Cards is gaining a lot of fans.
Despite the rather giggle-worthy illustration of this real-life water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, the series is a cleverly scathing, harsh and brilliant look at politics in America. Which is interesting, since it's a remake of a British miniseries of the same name from 1990, which spawned two additional miniseries (To Play the King and The Final Cut) -- all were fantastic, and it was good to see the original UK showrunners were behind this remake.
The story of a Machiavellian politician and his equally clever and calculated wife's journey up the rungs of government is a tale that will never tarnish with age -- it's Shakespearean in its MacBeth-ness, just with a lot more f-bombs and nudity, thanks to the unrated wilds of Netflix-land. It shows politics in a jaded but likely realistic light -- you push bills and legislature under the guise of ideals that you know others will support, regardless if you give a damn, because at the end of the day, it's all acts of leverage. Each win equals a sturdy rung to support your upward journey towards ultimate power. In the wake of a real-life contentious presidential race, there's a bipartisan satisfaction in watching a series that is so brutally honest -- not specifically about politicians, but the human condition itself. In the end, there are people who count and those that don't, and it is a painful struggle to come to terms with the notion of relevancy.
Kevin Spacey is Francis "Frank" Underwood (the original was Francis Urquhart, maybe too exotic a name for a South Carolinian representative), the Majority Whip who literally has most of Washington DC yoked under his net of influence. Like the original series, he breaks the Fourth Wall, speaking directly to the audience, which is helpful for providing context in the fast paced world of politicians who so rarely mean what they say. The feudal push-pull of getting things done in DC is fascinating -- it's like if Heathers and Mean Girls ran government, as it's all about making promises and granting favors in return for loyalty. And even if politics isn't your cup of tea, the series is also about the changing face of media and how it so easily sways the court of public opinion to bypass logic and truth. Even in its overly-dramatized format, as you see traditional forms of journalism wither in the harsh light of social media, the irony isn't lost that you're watching a television series through a high speed internet connection, under no traditional network or cable channel. Netflix surely scored a win with this remake, making us all thankful that $8 a month is worth more than the annoying wealth of crappy grade-z movies no one's heard of on their streaming library.
So, why the Peachoid? It was one of the earlier episodes that took Frank Underwood back to his hometown of Gaffney, SC, to deal with the unfortunate death of a teenager texting while driving, making fun of the peach-topped water tower, and Underwood dealing with "small ball" crap to keep his voters happy. It was a storyline that could only exist in this American remake, painting a wonderfully sad and funny portrait of small-town America, while watching Underwood deftly neutralize an emotionally-charged mob. The juxtaposition of the loss of a young life with a hilariously bulbous water tower perfectly sums up House of Cards as a series -- politics and ambition may be deadly-serious things, but the way one achieves power is about as irreverent and mind-boggling as the Peachoid.
I eagerly await the second season of House of Cards, and will be rewatching the original series, just to relive the magic and fill the time before season two comes streaming through our internets.
Jaunty Fine Print: illustration by Denise Sakaki