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‘House of Cards,’ ‘Scandal’ and a State of Politics on TV


Couches opposite America are fresh themselves for Feb. 27, when Netflix will recover a third deteriorate of a addictive Washington soap uncover “House of Cards.” As an earlier Washington wonk—having finished stints as a State Department speechwriter, 9/11 Commission questioner and Washington Post editor—I know a new deteriorate will meant being asked over and over either “House of Cards” shows viewers what Washington is unequivocally like.

The buzzkill answer: It’s not even close. On a contrary, it’s a sign that even when Hollywood can whip wire confections out of dull DC, it still can’t conduct to get a politics right. (Spoilers follow.)

One competence have suspicion Hollywood and Washington were flattering similar. Both are quintessential single-industry towns. Both margin with talent and ambition. Both clatter with infamous politics and emanate of self-aggrandizement. Neither has most explain on bargain typical people’s lives.

Yet a televised portrayals of Washington have struggled to constraint a currents of play that propel today’s American politics. Recent domestic shows customarily skip a genuine play (and comedy, for that matter)—substituting artificial studio stakes for genuine clashes, unwell to exaggerate tasty arguments on topics from fight to race, or blank a struggles and tradeoffs of Beltway characters struggling to achieve large things or slake large appetites.

The resplendent U.S. disproportion is “The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin’s honey-hued, maudlin NBC classical about a anticipation Democratic president, Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), and his fast-talking, civic-minded staff.

Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet in “The West Wing.”

Perhaps a pivotal disproportion is that a genuine Washington is wonkily ardent about policy, and Hollywood doesn’t most care. “House of Cards,” “Scandal,” “Veep” and a rest are about a Beltway’s plumbing and theatrics, not a work.  More than any other American domestic TV show, “The West Wing” got a centrality of process issues right, origination witty, clear play from real-world issues from a complexities of a census to a cost of anti-HIV drugs in Africa. And a preference to fire many exteriors in Washington, not some stand-in, grounded a uncover nicely—something painfully lacking in shows filmed in L.A., North Carolina (“Homeland”) or Maryland (“House of Cards”).

Two superb domestic shows now on a atmosphere do get a lot right. President Barack Obama has pronounced that his favorite uncover is “Homeland,” a taut, moving perspective thriller about a compromises finished by Carrie Mathison, a shining though shop-worn CIA user played distinctively by Claire Danes. “Homeland” expertly dramatizes a clammy post-9/11 anxieties and overreactions of a U.S. comprehension community, and it captures such insider niceties as a tensions between a U.S. envoy and a CIA hire chief.

But some sum get botched. Most of a spies on “Homeland” would prolonged given have been jailed for deliberating personal information on their uncertain iPhones, and in one ridiculous scene, a congressman tips off an al Qaeda personality about an imminent U.S. raid by texting him from a dungeon phone he brings inside a secure authority center. (In a genuine world, we leave your dungeon phones outward a doorway of SCIFs, a comforts for doing uber-secret material, ideally with a batteries popped out.)

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in “Homeland”

CBS’s glorious “The Good Wife”—about Chicago counsel Alicia Florrick’s (Julianna Margulies) self-reinvention after her politico father is ashamed in a harlotry scandal—is correct to a compromises of politics and refreshingly peaceful to shade a grown-up protagonists’ motives. It also facilities a memorably asocial domestic user in Eli Gold (played to a knob by Alan Cumming) and cameos from real-world pols including Valerie Jarrett, Donna Brazile and Michael Bloomberg.

But this season, a uncover has farfetched a inhabitant spotlight that would be thrown on Alicia’s competition for state’s profession in Illinois. (Chris Matthews doesn’t assuage down-ticket statewide debates.) And like a flashier, gaudier competitor, “Scandal,” “The Good Wife” storylines loop obsessively behind to insisting that masculine possibilities can win usually if their marriages have that storybook image—something abundantly belied by bipartisan total from Bill Clinton to David Vitter.

Many Washingtonians are bending on “Scandal,” about Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a Washington fixer who cleans adult contemptible Beltway messes even as she carries on an event with President Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant. Created by Shonda Rhimes, a uncover is, on many levels, a hoot—kinetic, operatic, and happy to cackle adult in an part acres of tract that some-more reluctant uncover runners would have placidly grazed for seasons. But a politics are bonkers, and existence is utterly emphatically beside a point. Olivia Pope creates her approach by a Washington soaked in impiety and waving with titillated shame. The boss murders an bum Supreme Court justice. The initial lady is sleeping with a clamp president. And a sinister, all-powerful, brute comprehension group called B-613 runs a Constitution by a shredder with a comprehensiveness and propensity that would have finished Nixon and Kissinger blubber with envy.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in “Scandal”

“Scandal” is a spirited reductio ad absurdum of post-Watergate politics, a pale anti-fantasy with a nasty undercurrent of sadism. If a perspective of women is cheeringly feminist—Olivia Pope is glamorous, randy, and commanding—its perspective of Washington is humid and conspiratorial. “Scandal” is phenomenally watchable, though it is, during heart, reduction domestic play than anti-political melodrama.

Similarly, “House of Cards”—about a arise of a murderously depraved pol Frank Underwood (played gleefully by Kevin Spacey)—is some-more soap uncover than domestic realism. Its tract final deteriorate hinged on a illusory boss who resigns with overwhelming ease, compared with a huge onslaught waged by Richard Nixon on his highway to chronological ignominy. Mr. Spacey’s anti-hero is always spinning elaborate, mostly disjointed webs of disguise that bear meagre similarity to a genuine Washington’s flop-sweat code of one-move-ahead -of-your-foes survivalist cunning. And while many DC politicos competence have idly dreamed about pulling a annoying contributor in front of a transport train, nobody has nonetheless given into that sold temptation—so distant as we know. (Also, there’s no Cathedral Heights hire on DC’s Metro.)

Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood and Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp in “House of Cards.” Still of Kevin Spacey and Molly Parker in House of Cards (2013)

Intriguingly, a dual new shows that best constraint a genuine feel of a life in politics don’t come from a U.S. “The Thick of It,” a sour BBC comedy, skewers a miserable inhabitants of several backwater British cupboard agencies. Its imperishable origination is Malcolm Tucker, a majestically scurrilous spin alloy played indelibly by Peter Capaldi. (One new cupboard minister, Malcolm spits, is “so unenlightened that light bends around him.”) The show’s creator, Armando Iannucci, went on to make HBO’s “Veep” stateside, though it pales subsequent to a original’s ferocity.

That brings us to substantially a biggest domestic TV uncover ever made, that came from not Hollywood though Copenhagen—“Borgen,” about a initial womanlike primary apportion of Denmark. Sidse Babett Knudsen gives an startling opening as Birgitte Nyborg—one hopes that Hillary Clinton has seen it. Who knew that parliamentary jockeying among tiny Danish parties could be enthralling? When Prime Minister Nyborg’s matrimony (and family) crumbles underneath a aria of her office, a consequences are stark, unpretty, and achingly felt. And a uncover facilities a fascinating mural of Danish society: informal, tolerant, proud. It should be somnolent, though it’s riveting.

So since do we caring about realism here? Perhaps it’s since we live in an age of domestic artifice, and we’re not certain either to trust a hopes about politics (“The West Wing”) or a fears (“House of Cards”). Perhaps it’s since some citizen-viewers are so troubled by a posturing, preening and partisanship of today’s Washington that they’re fervent to trust a infamous visions onscreen, that usually reinforces their disunion from their possess democracy. Perhaps it’s since those of us who adore a complexities of process have finished a lousy pursuit of anticipating ways to make it sparkling to a reduction wonky friends.

But maybe we can forge some bipartisan consensus—between fans of feign Democratic President Jed Bartlet and fans of feign Republican President Fitz Grant—that it’s past time that networks stopped trade on voter cynicism and brought some-more texture, sophistication and bargain to their domestic shows. They competence even make income off it.


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Article source: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2015/02/25/house-of-cards-scandal-and-the-state-of-politics-on-tv/

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