The dark forces behind House of Cards hate us. They are contemptuous, vengeful, and premeditating. They view us with scorn. They want us to suffer.
But the evil doesn’t come in the form of political scandal or backstabbing. Instead it’s something commentators think is revolutionary and fans find fascinating — the show’s all-at-once, binge-viewing release schedule.
“Human beings like control,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told The New Republic in a December article about the company’s on-demand series release pattern, in which the entire season is put out at once, for viewers to watch on their own schedules. “To make all of America do the same thing at the same time is enormously inefficient, ridiculously expensive, and most of the time, not a very satisfying experience.”
But strangely enough, House of Cards
has succeeded spectacularly in getting all of America (or at least the percentage of Americans who are hooked on House of Cards
) to do one thing at the same time: binge-watch House of Cards
as soon as it’s released, then litter the world with spoilers, giveaways, live-tweeted reactions and reviews that can’t help but influence your enjoyment of the show.
It seems like a mathematical impossibility, but if you haven’t watched the whole season of House of Cards ten minutes after it comes out, you’re screwed.
Everyone seems to agree that House of Cards is an amazing show. Some people hate it because it makes female journalists look slutty (fair criticism), because it’s an unrealistic portrayal of the evil of American politicians (eh, fair criticism), or because it’s an unrealistic portrayal of the intelligence and effectiveness of American politicians (an accurate, valid, indisputably correct criticism). I imagine lots of other people hate it for lots of other reasons.
That doesn’t change that it’s an amazing show. Even if you bristle at the suggestion that all successful female Washington journalists must be sleeping with Kevin McCarthy, House of Cards grabs you by the eyeballs. If you gaze too long into House of Cards, House of Cards gazes also into you.
But when a new season drops, thousands (at least thousands!) of Americans turn into pinwheel-eyed, drooling goons who have no choice but to quarantine themselves — squinting into their greasy, fingerprint-smudged laptop screens, probably ignoring the biological imperatives to eat meals and take bathroom breaks and respond to urgent phone calls from their mothers — so they can watch twelve hours (plus or minus) of instantly streaming television.