Archive | January, 2015

House of Cards is Not a Very Good Show

28 Jan

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I think my main problem with House of Cards is that the show is in denial. If, for example, it presented itself as a cartoon rather than a Important Show Trying To Teach Us Important Things, well that would be a show I’d like more. Think of 24, which is insane — and awesome because of it. Jack Bauer is not a three-dimensional character; he’s a superhero. When he (spoiler alert!) takes out 12 machine gun-wielding Russian goons with a single pistol, that’s something I don’t have a problem with, the same way I don’t mind when Batman goes one-on-forty without breaking a sweat. Neither Batman nor Jack Bauer are living in reality. They’re both comic book characters living in comic book worlds. Everyone understands this and is on the same page. That’s why they work.

House of Cards is a whole different story. On the one hand you have this show about the inner working of Washington D.C and how and why decisions get made. The thesis is that everyone is a prick and solely looking out for themselves. Not exactly an original thought — from what I remember from college, the basic premise of the Political Science field is that a politicians’ primary goal is to get elected and that it’s this desire that informs all his or her decisions — but still an important one. And House of Cards does do a good job of showing us how exactly that might look. It’s one thing to say you’re aware of how politicians think. But seeing this thought process put into action — like when one of the congressmen in House of Cards succumbs to blackmail and allows about 5,000 people in his district to lose their jobs — can be jarring. That’s the stuff House of Cards does well.

That’s also not really what the show is about. It’s not like The Wire, which illustrated the problem with institutions and how they affect society. It’s not like The Sopranos, which took us deep into the psyche of a powerful sociopath in a way that no other show had before. It’s not even like Game of Thrones, which isn’t really illustrating anything other than that good things rarely happen to good people. What makes Game of Thrones great, though, is that everyone is on a level playing field. You never know what’s going to happen or who even is winning The Game. The second you think you do the Red Wedding happens and you wind up staring at your TV screen in shock.

There’s very little that shocks in House of Cards (the first murder was easy to see coming; the second one is the outlier here). It takes about four episodes to realize that Kevin Spacey is not only the smartest person in the show, but also the only one in the House of Cards universe with a brain. The President of the United States is a dolt with the personality of a box and the charisma of a brick wall. He makes Mitt Romney look like Kevin Hart. How he got elected is beyond me. He is, by far, the worst fictional president I have ever seen. I’m not sure there’s ever been a less impressive TV character. He’s a moron and the worst.

Thankfully, most of the other characters on the show have a bit more to offer. None of them, however, appear, as they say, to playing with a full deck. Kevin Spacey is allowed to do what he wants, whenever he wants. Not only that, but no one else seems to be aware of what kind of person Frank Underwood (Spacey’s character) is, which would be cool and fine if he wasn’t pulling off the same moves over and over and over and over. At a certain point it gets boring watching him outmaneuver everyone else. And none of this even touches on the ludicrous plot twists, like the thing he does to the person in the subway, and how he apparently knows how to find the subway system’s trap doors and secret passageways. Or that scene that he and his wife have with that guard, which I’m still clueless as to what the point of it was.

Don’t get me wrong — House of Cards is, for the most part, entertaining, and watching Spacey play Frank Underwood is a ton of fun. But lots of entertaining shows and characters have made it on to TV. The difference with House of Cards was that I felt like I was missing out by not watching it; at least that’s how those who watched it made me feel.

Now that I’ve completed the show’s two season, I can’t help but disagree. House of Cards is good but not great, occasionally fun but not memorable. If you have some time to kill there are certainly worse things you can do than start a binge. But there are also at least ten shows I’d recommend before it.

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Some Thoughts on Rex Ryan to the Bills

12 Jan

According to reports, Rex Ryan is about to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. I find this interesting for a few reasons, which I felt like sharing (in a rambling manner) in this space because, well, I’m pretty sure that’s the point behind having a space like this. So, with that being said, here goes:

  • This is classic Rex, in good ways and bad. The good: he’s picking a team that he knows already has a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, had the NFL’s best pass defense this year and the league’s second best defense overall.
  • That unit led the team to a 9-7 season, which is pretty impressive when you consider the fact that Kyle Orton was the team’s starting quarterback, and that he signed like a week before the regular season because the incumbent, E.J. Manual, stunk in the preseason. The Bills, with Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus, have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. They have talent in the secondary, too. All of this is to say that, with Rex in the fold next year, I’d be shocked in Buffalo’s defense isn’t regarded as the AFC’s best.
  • This, no doubt, is what drew Rex to the job. Defense is what matters to him and so he picked the spot where the defense was the best.
  • That said team also happens to play in the same division as the franchise that just fired Rex for sure played a role as well. That’s just how Rex thinks. To him life is about finding those people that don’t agree with you, and then giving them one giant middle finger. That’s what this is. Next year’s Bills-Jets game, and the Ryan quotes that come after his team holds the Jets’ offense to 87 yards, will be great. The decision to take the Bills’ job pretty much puts all of the good of Rex Ryan on display: the confidence, the swagger, the refusal to roll over.
  • It also shows all the bad stuff: the short-sightedness, the ability to let his emotions get the best of him, the belief that defense is all that matters. Ryan is essentially walking into the same situation that he had when he took the Jets job in 2009. A talented defense, but no quarterback, which a team trying to take out Tom Brady and the Patriots needs.
  • Yeah, Sammy Watkins might be the most talented offensive player Ryan’s ever had, but if EJ Manuel is throwing to him it won’t matter. That Ryan is brining over Vic Fangio from San Francisco to be his offensive coordinator is good, but Fangio can’t make a QB appear out of the air. Also, it’s not like the Bills are going to get a QB in this year’s draft. You know who might be Ryan’s starting quarterback this year?
  • Mark Sanchez.
  • That’s right, Mark Sanchez.
  • Let that sink in for a second.
  • If I were advising Rex, I would have told him to hold out for the Atlanta Falcons job. The team already has a good quarterback in Matt Ryan; he and Rex could have been a perfect match.
  • That being said, Rex in Buffalo will be fun. The city and fans will love him, and I do think he’ll be pretty successful. The problem is that in the NFL, having some success is not enough. For a head coach to keep his job he needs to make the Super Bowl. That’s not happening for a team with no quarterback. The Bills will be good the next few years, but in five I expect Ryan to be looking for a new job once again.