HOUSE OF CARDS

“You know what I like about people? They stack so well.” That line alone might sump up the manipulation and hunger for power House of Cards is really all about. Featuring an editing format that oozes a signature appealing mystery, the enthralling marriage of the sly writing and the majestic cast has rightfully made Beau Willimon’s a long-running hit.

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Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as then-congressman Frank Underwood and Claire Underwood

Adapted from the BBC miniseries of the same name and based upon the novel by Michael Dobbs (Margaret Thatcher‘s Chief of Staff), it’s no wonder how accurately well-crafted the show is when we look at the creator’s career itself – having worked in presidential and senatorial campaigns including Chuck Schumer’s (yep, her uncle) and Hillary Clinton’s, the Columbia and Juilliard-graduated playwright sorted through, summed up thousands of EU documents and held positions in Vietnam, South Africa or Estonia back in his days as a student. That may explain why the writing behind the debates, primaries process or inaugurations feels that lifelike. So lifelike, in fact, that it achieved the unlikely feat of winning the Emmy for Best Drama Series in its first year.

Kevin Spacey plays ruthless pragmatist Francis J. Underwood, who goes from congressman to VP and then President of the United States. Thanks to unapologetic manipulation and the help of the sly and ever-classy wife Claire (Robin Wright), who as of Season 4 was the other half of the re-election ballot, the ambitious marriage keeps climbing Washington’s ladder of political power, often at their own expense. The rest of the cast features this year’s Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali and Emmy nominees Elizabeth Marvel, Michael Kelly and Paul Sparks as the Underwood’s repective opponents and confidants.

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The Underwoods planning their next move in the Oval

As is the case of any long-running hit like The West Wing or Veep, not only does the writing need to be spot-on, but also consistently engaging and always up-to-date (especially after “stunning” elections like 2016’s.) To make sure of that, Willimon, Dobbs, Kenneth Lin, Sarah Treem and the rest of the team strive to find the perfect balance between fiction and reality, strength and vulnerability and impulse and restraint. In conjunction with a masterful direction (often by Ms. Right as of last season), the results are sharp, nuanced, sly and appealing enough to keep a fanbase that tuned in in Season 1 and only continues to grow. Like that, House of Cards became the first and best definition of binge-watching. Netflix struck gold by offering the possibility of returning over and over to this addictive, outstanding show.

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Supposedly submitted by mistake, Claire’s VP bid at the end of S4 leaves many open possibilities 

Spacey – this year’s Tony host! – has two Oscars, a Globe and a Tony under his belt while the uber-talented Robin Wrigth became the first actress to win a Golden Globe for a streaming TV show. So this September, the Television Academy better come to its senses and give the Underwoods what’s theirs, because we don’t want any pundits’ heads rolling down the underground. Limos, who are we kidding.

All jokes aside, I undoubtedly and highly recommend watching what has become my favorite drama show and part of pop culture, with the show’s account tweeting at Sean Spicer or fans wearing Underwood ’16 hoodies as an alternative to the insane campaigns we lived last year. Under a perfect direction, marvelous script, enticing editing format and spot-on costume design, the cast and plot only keep getting better and better. And after such cliffhangers (hi, Madam President) as the ones S4 ended on as well as the real 2016 election, we can expect a nail-bitter and very charged fifth season.

Country: United States.

Release date: February 1, 2013

Original network: Netflix.

Seasons: 4.

Awards: 6 Emmys, 2 Golden Globes, 2 SAG Awards

Grade: A++

All images are taken from Google.

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THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON

There’s nothing like the remaking of an event that thrilled an entire generation: ‘Pearl Harbor,’ ‘Apollo 13,’ Titanic…’ And what better than reviving the so-called trial of the century? From cast and writing to directing, it goes without saying that Ryan Murphy’s ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ did win big.

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Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown as prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden

Based on Jeffrey Toobin‘s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson (1997), the limited series revolves around insanely crazy, 10-month trial concerning the murder of Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown and friend Ron Goldman. Back in 1995, everyone at the renowned trial was or would be a star: Orenthal James Simpson was one of the most famous and beloved running backs in football history and beloved, Lead Prosecutor Marcia Clark became a national obsession due to her looks and Lead Defense Attorney Johnnie Cochran would later take over the Snoop Dogg or Michael Jackson trials.

And in 2016, the cast is no lesser known: Sarah Paulson (‘Carol’) plays Clark, Cuba Gooding Jr. (‘Jerry Maguire’) portrays Simpson, Courtney B. Vance embodies Cochran and the rest of the cast features John Travolta, Sterling K. Brown, Nathan Lane and David Schwimmer (looks like the break is over.)

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In arguably the most decisive moment of the trial, O.J. (Gooding Jr.) shows struggle to fit the glove he was allegedly wearing when committing the double homicide

But however royal the cast, the massive popularity and acclaim is almost entirely due to the outstanding writing. The challenge was major – how do we retell a story everyone recalls in an objective yet interesting way? Doing justice to both sides but plausibly presenting it two decades later, when societal standards have supposedly changed? We start by putting Ryan Murphy (‘Glee,’ ‘AHS’) in charge. Secondly, we hire the screenwriting team formed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who accurately reflected how the defense played the race card and triggered sexism from the people, destroying the confidence of the brilliantly sharp Marcia Clark, who had to change her look repeatedly and bear the unfathomable pressure of single-handedly raising two kids, being the nation’s b*tch simply for being a tough woman doing good job (sounds familiar?) and going high even when her ex-husband released nude pics of her on the beach. And lastly, we pray Sarah Paulson, who masterfully portrayed the lawyer’s restraint and turmoil without having it be self-pitying, isn’t seducing critics opposite Cate Blanchett or Kevin Spacey. (My God! Somebody give her a movie!).

“If your show doesn’t have a dragon or a white Bronco, go home now,” 2016 Emmy host Jimmy Kimmel predicted. The result, 9 Emmys (Series, Writing, Paulson, Vance, Knight, Casting, Editing, Hairstyling and Sound mixing) out of 22 nominations, 2 Globes (Series and Paulson) and countless other accolades for the actress including the SAG Award.

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Paulson kissed her date for the night, the real Marcia Clark

All in all, I undoutedly recommend a serious binge-watching session of this fantastic all around series due to the writing, cast and brilliant characterization. Also worth saying, it starts getting addicting after episode 6!

Country: United States.

Release date: February 2 – April 5, 2016

Original network: FX.

Episodes: 10.

Awards: 9 Emmys, 2 Golden Globes

Grade: A-

All images are taken from Google.