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‘House of Cards’: It’s binge time again

  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Try this line on your loved one: “Be my valentine. Let’s watch TV for 13 hours.”

Don’t be surprised to hear that on Friday, since that is when the second season of “House of Cards” arrives at the program service Netflix.

Derived from a British dramatic trilogy, “House of Cards” stars Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, a congressman from South Carolina who is manipulating his way up the political ladder. His scheming has also involved his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), and an ambitious reporter, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) – but alliances shift among the political and moneyed classes in Washington. So, even though Underwood was set to become vice president as the first season ended, it was also clear that trouble loomed. In the second season, says Netflix, that trouble includes Barnes inching closer to the truth about Underwood’s crimes, Claire dealing with the brighter spotlight on her life and marriage, and billionaire Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) wanting payback for help he gave Underwood.

Just those hints make me want to clear my schedule. “House of Cards,” after all, gave new impetus to binge-viewing when Netflix put all 13 episodes of the first season online at the same time, letting people either stretch out their viewing or devour the whole thing. (I mixed devouring with some breaks.) The subscription service will do the same thing with the second season, with all 13 new telecasts available on Friday.

Thanks to DVRs and DVD/Blu-ray sets, people have been able to binge-view for some time, and there have been series – “24” leaps to mind – that lent themselves to big gulps instead of waiting week to week for new developments. In most previous cases, bingeing involved saving recordings of a show as it aired, or waiting for the release on disc – and trying to avoid spoilers until you could watch. “House of Cards” made the experience more intense by releasing an entire new series at once, and particularly by doing it with a serialized program designed to keep you leaping from episode to episode until you are done.

And, whether you binged or not, the first season of “House of Cards” was a grim look at the evil men and women do in pursuit of power – a look that was helped not only by good performances but by the gloom-laden atmosphere generated by writer Eric Roth and producer-director David Fincher. Of course, it was wildly implausible in spots, and occasionally dragged. But there was always enough to keep viewers hooked.

So maybe your sweetheart will want to watch, too.

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