A quick follow-up note to the TV trailer I posted recently for Season 2 of House of Cards.
James Fallows has been posting on this topic in recent days, and from his reader feedback I learn that Prince Charles was recently heard to use the villain's catch-phrase from the original British series: 'You may well say that. I couldn't possibly comment.' Fallows, impressed by Prince Charles' deadpan delivery of the quip, says that 'Either he has absorbed this part of popular culture without realizing its origin or he is a more hip character than we think.'
I sincerely hope the latter interpretation is true, because if so, Prince Charles' joke becomes even more delightful than Fallows realises. Fallows confesses on his blog that he has only recently seen the original House of Cards and has not seen the follow up series, To Play the King and the third instalment, The Final Cut. So without spoiling it for him, here’s the kicker: in the second series, Francis Urquhart's main adversary is the King of England, a passionately reformist monarch unmistakeably modeled on Prince Charles:
Respect to the future King of England, then, for seemingly appropriating the catchphrase of his fictional enemy.
One note of dissent with Fallows, however, who concludes that the original British series is better than the American remake. I disagree because I cannot detect the 'jauntiness' and 'American optimism' that Fallows sees in Kevin Spacey's remake and which he says makes it inferior to the original. To the contrary, actually. For me, there always seemed a slightly campy, cartoonish quality to the British series that somewhat undermined the drama. The comedy in the American version is drier and darker, and thus more in keeping with the spirit of the thing.
But I did agree with this comment from a Fallows reader, who says the American version lacks the original's commentary on contemporary politics. The reader points out that the original series was a biting satire of Thatcherism, and says the remake 'seems kind of toothless to me, because it's untethered from any broader political commentary.’
At least, that seemed right to me when I read it yesterday. But this morning I see that Andrew Sullivan has taken to comparing Hillary Clinton to Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), the spouse to Kevin Spacey's Francis Underwood in the American House of Cards and a woman who tolerates her husband's affairs and supports his schemes for power.
Back in 2008, many noted the uncanny parallels between the fictional world of The West Wing — in which a young, little-known congressman from a racial group never before represented in the presidency came out of nowhere to win the White House — and Barack Obama's political progress. Is TV about to presage political life again in the US? Those of us who know how the third instalment of the British House of Cards ends will hope that the parallels are not too exact.