Machiavellian monster

Get your creep on with original House of Cards

Whether they binge-watched it over a single weekend, or drew out the evil slowly over weeks or months, millions of viewers were captivated by the slick, conspiratorial congressman from the South, Francis Underwood, in the Netflix original series House of Cards.

Just one of the back-row boys

But the incredible Kevin Spacey wasn’t the original Francis. That honor goes to Ian Richardson and his unctuous Francis Urquhart, who brought the character to life in the BBC’s Emmy-winning 1990 production of the bestseller by Michael Dobbs.

Now you can sit beside the British Francis as he backstabs and manipulates his way through Parliament when KET begins the House of Cards Trilogy Monday, June 16 at 9/8 pm on KET and Saturday, June 21 at 11/10 pm on KET2.

The story, while understandably altered for its American setting in the Spacey version, is basically the same: snubbed by the new prime minster for a senior cabinet post, Chief Whip Urquhart sets his sights on ruining Prime Minister Collingridge, much as Frank Underwood undermined the president.

The asides Francis give us, the audience, are intact as well, and if anything, are more pronounced. Unfortunately for us, through these uncomfortably intimate “conversations,” Urquhart’s machinations become a shared responsibility. Like it or not, you’re going to be his co-conspirator.

The British House of Cards moves much more quickly and presents fewer side plots than the American version. The wife looms more in the background than Robin Wright’s cold Claire Underwood, yet she’s just as in step with her husband’s ambitions.

Mattie Storin

Also central to the story is the young reporter, here named Mattie Storin, who quickly becomes enamored with the Chief Whip who worms his way into her journalistic heart by passing along juicy political tidbits. His favorite phrase in confirming what he wants to see in print, “You might think that, Mattie — I couldn’t possibly comment,” becomes a prelude to their eventual mutually beneficial affair.

There are delectable touches throughout — frequent long shots of rats along the Thames with the House of Parliament looming pompously in the background, the regal, bombastic theme music which belies the corruption it trumpets.

Seeing the Netflix version is, of course, not essential to a delicious viewing experience of the trilogy. After the initial four-part House of Cards, we’ll present the follow-up To Play the King and The Final Cut.

It adds up to a summer of mesmerizing, evil entertainment — even if, after an hour saturated by Urquhart’s corrupt mind, you’ll no doubt feel compelled to take a long, hot, cleansing bath.

“You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.”


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