Running out of things to binge watch during the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike? Try the original BBC ‘House of Cards’ with Ian Richardson

Ian Richardson as Frances Urquhart in House of Cards. Photo: BBC

Don’t let the on-going Hollywood writer’s strike get you down. With both sides meeting this week for the first time in just about a month, there actually might be a flicker of a light at the end of the tunnel with, hopefully, the studios understanding the gravity of the WGA and SAG concerns, come to their senses and hammer out a deal soon.

I’m guessing the lack of new offerings for the past 140+ days has probably put a major dent in your film and television viewing as how many times can you watch a re-run (sorry, encore broadcast as the networks put it) of Seinfeld, Friends, Big Bang Theory, Frasier, Young Sheldon or 3rd Rock from the Sun!

Well, we at Tellyspotting have just the thing. It’s time to dig deep into the BBC Bag of Tricks and pull out a perennial favorite from over 3 decades ago that I would be more than happy to put up against anything that is produced today. Yes, we are talking House of Cards…the British version, not the watered down American version from several years back.

Unfortunately, along those lines, most telly watchers who reside in the U.S. today only know House of Cards as the more recent, critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated, Netflix original series. Good as people thought it was, I’m still over-the-top more of a fan of the 1990 political thriller by the same name from the BBC.

Set after the end of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the original story was adapted by Andrew Davies from a novel written by Michael Dobbs who was a former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters. The original series was titled House of Cards with two subsequent series, To Play the King and The Final Cut round out the House of Cards Trilogy.

Ian Richardson as Frances Urquhart and Susannah Harker as Mattie Storin in House of Cards. Photo: BBC

Francis Urquhart (or, FU), the fictional Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, played by Ian Richardson, lacks, shall we say, some of the traditional heroic qualities that would be expected of a leading character in a drama. The plot follows his amoral and manipulative scheme to become leader of the governing party following the resignation of Margaret Thatcher which leads the way to becoming the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

House of Cards was said to draw from Shakespeare’s plays Macbeth and Richard III, both of which feature main characters who are corrupted by power and ambition. Richardson has a Shakespearean background and said he based his characterization of Urquhart on Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III. Richardson won the Best Actor BAFTA award in 1991 for his role as Urquhart, and Andrew Davies won the Emmy for outstanding writing in a miniseries.

One has to love Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains salute to Frances that I ran across several years ago while boarding a train from London to Liverpool. You can’t make this stuff up!

Virgin Train from London to Liverpool. Photo: Bill Young

So, as you continue to ‘shelter at home’ waiting for the strike to be settled, check out the original House of Cards. It’s 12 hours of binge-worthy brilliant television.

In: Drama