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I've spent more time than I should have over the past week or so watching "House of Cards," the new Netflix-only TV series that premiered last week. I watched the first episode with Mrs. Content Guy last weekend, and her reaction was that she really liked it ... and that we'd have to watch the additional 12 episodes over coming weeks.

I'm not ordinarily what one would call a "binge viewer," but that just wasn't good enough for me. I told her that I'd certainly watch "House of Cards" with her, but that I had a responsibility to MNB readers to watch the entire season ASAP. After all, I've been writing for months with great enthusiasm about the paradigm-changing approach taken by Netflix - creating for itself a differential advantage by getting into product production as well as product distribution, as well as offering the entire 13-episode series at once, so viewers could make their own decisions about how to consume it.

How could I address this issue without watching the whole series? And how could I take months to do so without violating MNB's basic value proposition?

At least, this was my argument at home. (Mrs. Content Guy is not really buying it; she's a little annoyed at me right now. Apparently, we've discovered yet another way that we are a mixed marriage....)

So, overt the past week or so, I've been stealing 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there, trying to watch the entire series .. and to be honest, I'm driven not just by my MNB responsibilities, but also by the fact that "House of Cards" is first-rate, can't-stop-watching entertainment with great writing and direction (from Beau Willimon and David Fincher, among others) and a terrific cast - if this were on HBO, it'd be the next "Sopranos."

At the core of its black heart, "House of Cards" is like the dark side of "The West Wing," a deeply cynical and mesmerizing look at how power is wielded in politics and government. If nobility and service were core values in Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing" universe, overriding and implacable ambition are central to "House of Cards" - not only does it suggest that power corrupts, but it suggests that this corruption is how and why our government works the way it does.

The driving protagonist is Kevin Spacey, as Rep. Francis Underwood (his initials are, advisedly, "F.U.") a Democratic Congressional leader who, in the first moments of the show, learns that he is not being nominated to be the next Secretary of State. This rejection serves to fuel every step he takes during the series - he yearns for power, and he is willing to do anything to achieve it.

And man, is he a walking, talking business lesson - in all sort of good and bad ways. Above all, he's a pragmatist: "It doesn't matter how it happened -- we can't make it unhappen," he says at one point. "Now we have to adapt."

In one of the series' most interesting conceits, Spacey draws the audience in, almost turning us into co-conspirators, as he occasionally breaks the fourth wall and tells us about his plans, his motivations, his thinking. Sometimes it is a soliloquy, sometimes it is just a look. But always, it is a technique that helps drive the narrative forward.

There are other strong performances: Robin Wright as Spacey's cool, inscrutable wife, who has her own agenda; Kate Mara as a political reporter with her own ambitions and a willingness to do almost anything to achieve them; and Corey Stoll as a Congressman with an addiction problem, who is just a pawn in the political chess game being played by Underwood.

I cannot rave about "House of Cards" enough. If you have Netflix's streaming service, you should watch it. And if you don't have Netflix, you should sign up now. (Which is exactly what Netflix hopes that people will say, and why it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in original productions).

"House of Cards" is a home run. I can't wait to watch it again with Mrs. Content Guy, and can't wait until season two, which already has been promised.




I have just one other thing to say before signing off. As I write these words, I am staring out the kitchen window. Snow is falling, and the forecasts are all for a "historic storm."

I'm really getting tired of "historic storms." These days, it seems like they're happening every six months.



That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday from Las Vegas.

(I hope.)

Slàinte!
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