There’s a revolution going on as streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime have already proven the insanity of paying money to anyone to program what films you can watch on any given day (instead of just watching whatever you want to watch whenever you want to watch it).
Streaming on demand has already re-written the rules on the music industry and very soon the same will be said for film. The latest development is Netflix investing over $110 million to produce an HBO-quality series about life inside the Beltway, a project based off a successful British production with the same title, House of Cards. Maybe you’ve already watched all 13 episodes of the first season since they were all released on the same day earlier this month.
First, the good news: this show blows away Showtimes’ Homeland, but doesn’t quite make Sopranos status. Kevin Spacey plays a Machiavellian-type politician weaving ambitious schemes to engineer himself into the Presidency. If you had to pick one person Spacey’s character seems designed around, it would have to be Dick Cheney because Cheney was put in charge of selecting G.W.’s running mate and ended up selecting himself, very similar to the op Spacey’s character unleashes in the first season. Peter Russo is a virtual dead ringer for Elliot Spitzer as far as looks go, although Spitzer is a very rich Jew and Russo is portrayed as a very poor Catholic, so the resemblance pretty much ends with their mutual fondness for hookers. The billionaire Ramon Tusk seems loosely based on Warren Buffet, although Buffet made his fortune in insurance and Coca-Cola, while Tusk is portrayed as a world-wide investor in atomic power who speaks fluent Chinese and is an avid bird watcher.
I particularly like the way the show reveals a massively-funded charity as being in bed with the very corporate interests the charity pretends to be working against. Nothing is as it appears to be in politics and wolves usually appear dressed as sheep.
Unfortunately, the muckraking press described in this show no longer exists. Yes, the part about politicians using and manipulating journalists by planting trial balloons goes on all the time. But there really aren’t any journalists working for any major media outlets doing real gumshoe investigative work on government corruption anymore. Those jobs no longer exist. Gary Webb was probably the last, and you saw what happened to him.
You might think Doug Stamper is Scooter Libby, but Richard Armitage would be a much closer guess, although Mike Kelly doesn’t have the physical presence of Armitage, a star linebacker for the Naval Academy. Naval intelligence has had a strong presence in global affairs since the Kennedy assassination and their alumni keep turning up as members of the Octopus squad, a club Armitage and Cheney may both belong to. Scooter had to fall on his sword and lost his law practice to protect Armitage, who was the real source of the Valerie Plame leak.
I was interviewed in High Times this month, by the way, and Paul Krassner asked me what really caused the recent crackdown on dispensaries. I began by saying “They” (meaning the Octopus), but this got edited somehow to say “The Feds.” Actually, there’s a huge gulf between the thousands of honest public servants who perform their jobs within the government with dignity and the Octopus players at the very top of the power pyramid who engage in enormous profit-making in guns and drugs while hiding behind a cloak of National Security. House of Cards would be far better if they tracked into this complex world. The first time I heard the words “Dick Armitage” was 1989, and Bo Grits had just returned from the Golden Triangle where he interviewed opium warlord Kuhn Sa, who told Gritz that Armitage was his biggest customer. They had to hide Armitage away for a few years, but he came back with a vengeance to take over the strongman role at the State Department.
The show did jump the shark, however, by having the Cheney character murder the Spitzer character. That clearly was a job better left to Armitage.