I’m a little late to the party but I want to write about House of Cards. First of all, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now. Second of all, here’s why. It’s the future.
It’s beautifully shot with a fantastic cast led by Kevin Spacey, an Oscar nominated writer, Beau Willimon and set in a captivating world of power and deception. As each episode ends the next begins, with no recaps, very little story of the week. This is a giant 13 hour movie.
When I saw the trailer I wanted to watch it. Instantly. And was prepared to pay for the privilege.
And this is key.
This is premium content for a subscription paying audience. It has to be outstanding to cut through all the noise, all the ‘filler’ shows, all the not-quite-right, ‘quality’ series available on Freeview. Cable has to justify its cost and so now does Video on Demand. Netflix had to design something so good you would sign up to monthly payments to see. Here’s why.
We have no more free time. We only have an hour or so to spend watching a show so it had better be good.
We want to watch it when we like. I don’t want to have to wait until 9pm to watch a great drama series on TV. I want to watch it in bed when I wake up, on the move, when I’m in the mood. I want to watch it where I want, on a portable screen or screens. And I’m prepared to pay. Not a huge amount, but enough.
I want a show that is exactly tailored to my requirements. Not too old, not too young, not too male-skewed, not too girly – but I don’t want to be pandered to or second-guessed or dumbed down any more. That’s what ‘House of Cards’ gets right and all those over-targeted niche TV shows get wrong. I want the best. And with the migration of top-flight talent from cinema to television, fleeing from the tent-pole culture of blockbuster movies, I am getting it on the small screen rather than the big.
At Cannes I heard someone ask ‘What is the future of cinema?’ The answer was, ‘Television’. Correction – it’s Viewing on Demand. Kevin Spacey was right in his Edinburgh address. Binge viewing is what we want and what we can now have. I overhead a guy on the tube telling his friends that watching a whole series this way is ‘like reading a book, you are so immersed in the world and its characters you keep going back for more’. And more. And more.
Once the Emmys are over, will there be more pale imitators of House of Cards? Cheaper series we will mainline like cheap candy when Netflix and Co have to produce much more original content at a lower per programme cost? Or will quality continue to win out over quantity?
I hope it will. I always think better in silence than in noise.
What kind of series inspire you and why? Leave a note here or contact me @emlin32 on Twitter. Happy viewing!