Somber 'House of Cards' stacks the deck
MORE FEATURES SERIES NOTES CRITIC'S CHOICE LATE NIGHT BY KEVIN McDONOUGH
Is television as we know it dead? Or has it already turned into something we never anticipated?
With more people adding Netflix's streaming service to their menu of viewing options (or making it their only option), the site has begun to offer exclusive television series, much like HBO and Showtime. Beginning today, Netflix subscribers can watch the entire 13-episode political drama "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
Spacey stars in this dark Washington melodrama as Francis Underwood, the House majority whip, a rising star who is denied a promised promotion to secretary of state by the president he just helped elect. From that moment on, he schemes to destroy the commander in chief.
"Cards" is based on a BBC miniseries of the same name. The pilot and second episode were directed by David Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), who is also executive producer, and written by Beau Willimon ("Ides of March"), who saddles Spacey with spectacularly unnatural dialogue.
In drama, there are many fine lines between serious and dull, between exalted and pretentious, and between somber and dreary. "Cards" crosses every line. The series opens with Spacey's Underwood performing a mercy killing on a dog that had just been struck by a hit-and-run driver. He does this while offering a glum soliloquy on the difference between necessary pain and needless suffering. It goes downhill from there.
n Cultures clash and family bonds are stretched to the breaking point in the new series "Belle's" (10 p.m., TV One). Bill (Keith David), the widowed owner of a soul food restaurant, bickers frequently with two very different daughters. Practical Jill (Elise Neal) juggles her job as the restaurant's manager with her life as a single mom. Her princess sister, Loreta (Tami Roman), daydreams about stardom in the music business and finding a rich husband.
"Belle's," produced by Ed. Weinberger ("Taxi," "The Cosby Show"), is a throwback of sorts, mixing controversial social issues, one-liners and touching family dynamics.
n Train performs, as football stars of the past and present appear, on "Best Super Bowl Concert Ever" (9 p.m., VH1). In other music news, Showtime broadcasts "Mumford & Sons: The Road to Red Rocks" (8 p.m.).
n Miss "Fringe" on Fox? Catch repeats of "Fringe" (8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Science, TV-14) every Friday.
n The Jekyll and Hyde fantasy handled so clumsily on NBC's "Do No Harm" arrives all too realistically on "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" (10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., ID, TV-14).
Sibling rivals ruin a restaurant on "Kitchen Nightmares" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
The chief brand officer of Boston Market becomes an "Undercover Boss" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Steve Harvey hosts the 44th NAACP Image Awards (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
"Drain the Ocean: Revealed" (8 p.m., National Geographic, TV-G) takes a two-hour look at the world beneath the waves.
A failed air conditioner reveals an air duct of horror on "Infested!" (9 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-PG).
Carroll's cruel plans enter a new phase on "The Following" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).
A naked twist on running shoes on "Shark Tank" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Rat bites are just the start of one man's woes on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Arthur laughs off a curse on Camelot on "Merlin" (10 p.m., Syfy, TV-PG). Bad move.
Spartacus has trouble feeding his growing legions on "Spartacus: War of the Damned" (9 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
Babes in khaki on "Last Man Standing" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... The hunt for a cleaner on "Nikita" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... Reba becomes Cash's muse on "Malibu Country" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
A pizza truck is hijacked on "CSI: NY" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) ... "Dateline NBC" (9 p.m.) ... Carrie wiggles out of being grounded on "The Carrie Diaries" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... "20/20" (10 p.m., ABC).
A border patrol officer (Jack Nicholson) turns a blind eye to smugglers in the 1982 drama "The Border" (8 p.m., Sundance), also starring Harvey Keitel, Valerie Perrine and Warren Oates.
Scott Caan, Greg Fitzsimmons, Natasha Leggero and Ross Mathews appear on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!, r) ... Kevin Spacey, Nick Griffin and Emeli Sande appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Wanda Sykes and Branford Marsalis on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC) glances back at the guests of the week.
Jason Bateman, Zosia Mamet and Andrea Bocelli visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Craig Ferguson hosts Joe Theismann and Ariel Tweto on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).