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Friday, February 1, 2013

House of Cards Is Out. Here's the First Episode.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 2:44 PM

HOUSE OF CARDS Dude, you gotta stop chewing your fingernails.
  • HOUSE OF CARDS Dude, you gotta stop biting your fingernails.

As the editor of the Mercury's Film section, I'm probably supposed to be telling you what movies to go see this weekend, but fact is, I'm not all that stoked about any of 'em—what I am stoked about, though, is House of Cards, the new Netflix-exclusive series. All 13 of its first-season episodes were released onto Netflix today, and word of mouth on it is very good, and the first episode was directed by David Fincher, so yeah. Kind of a big deal.

It's also the first real test of Netflix's release-every-episode-at-once strategy, which some people insist is madness. I'm guessing it'll work, though: Unlike traditional television outlets, Netflix seems to have actually looked around and figured out how most people watch serialized television these days. They're betting strong original content will keep current subscribers happy, and they're betting content like this will sucker in the few remaining people who don't already have Netflix (who, theoretically, will stick around once they see the breadth of Netflix's cheap offerings—or at least hang on until Netflix does a similar thing this spring when they'll dump a buch of new Arrested Development on everyone).

As someone who's consumed as much good TV through marathon sessions as anyone—and as someone who prefers to see writers and directors work under conditions that aren't reliant upon instant audience reactions—I'm a fan of the full-season release strategy. That said, I'm an idiot when it comes to business and money, so hell if I know if it'll actually work. The only possible drawback I can predict is that if people burn through all 13 episodes of House of Cards quickly, they'll also stop talking about it quickly. I loathe the make-'em-wait-for-it strategy that HBO uses with Game of Thrones, for example, but having people constantly talking, tweeting, and blogging about that show certainly helped build word of mouth on how good it was—and convinced people who wouldn't have otherwise watched a fantasy show to give it a shot. Whether or not a concentrated blast of people talking about House of Cards for the next week or so is as effective as a long-term, water-cooler discussion about it... eh, it's a risk. But it seems, at least to me—and again, I repeat, I am an idiot—like a really smart one.

ANYWAY: Even if you don't have Netflix, the first, Fincher-directed episode of House of Cards is available here for free. Yeah. Netflix is basically acting like a drug dealer right now—and so long as nobody overdoses on Spacey*, they'll probably keep their clientele, both old and new, happy.

*Science fact: You cannot overdose on Spacey, I have tried**
**Unless you take a hit of K-PAX

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