NETFLIX SERIES WORTH BINGING ON
THE IT CROWDBy Roque Renteria
I traveled to London a few years back and, like most people, I suffered from culture shock. However, the shock came not from British-isms but rather from the ubiquitous Americanization. Everywhere I went (which was difficult because London is not too wheelchair accessible) I saw a McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner. Every popular radio station played Kanye or Katy Perry. But what most struck me as odd and downright unforgivable was that none of my English peers knew who The Clash was. That was the day I realized punk was dead.
I won’t comment anymore on American hegemony; I’ll leave that to Chomsky. But I will say that seeing all the shit I see on a daily basis abroad ruined part of my trip. I thought the London I had read about was long gone. Then, just when I thought all hope was lost, I saw something that changed my life forever. I was in my hotel room flipping through channels when I stumbled upon The IT Crowd.
For those of you unfamiliar with The IT Crowd, here is the best description I can provide; it is a show about two awkward nerds who are inept at social skills and are misanthropic. The two nerds are played by Chris O’Dowd (the Irish cop from Bridesmaids) and Richard Ayoade (British guy from The Watch). They spend most their time working as technical support in the basement of a large building for a multinational corporation. One day, an attractive woman (well, attractive by British standards) joins the IT section of the corporation without having any computer knowledge or skills. Sound familiar?
The IT Crowd is everything The Big Bang theory strives to be. It is a smart show that properly represents geek culture. More importantly, The IT Crowd is actually funny. The jokes aren’t spoon-fed to the audience nor do they feel forced or catered to a group of Philistines. Not to be rude, but I hate The Big Bang Theory and believe The IT Crowd is superior in every way. Even the title of the show is more clever.
In closing, I hope you take into consideration my opening anecdote and cut down on American television for a while. You can only watch Breaking Bad so many times before it gets repetitive. Instead, embrace the hilarity of Britain! Don’t forget, this is the same country that gave us Monty Python, Shaun of the Dead and last but de$nitely not least, The Office.
Anyway, every season of The IT Crowd is available for instant streaming on Net!ix. I advise you start to watching right away. There only 24 episodes, so you should be caught up within a couple of days. Also, if your computer starts malfunctioning, try turning it on and off again.
HOUSE OF CARDS
By Chris Fabela
Ever since Netflix burst onto the scene, it has been slowly closing the gap between the tradition televisional medium and video-on-demand (let’s just ignore Qwikster as a black spot on an otherwise agreeable track record), so it’s no surprise that the company’s next step in total media domination would be to start releasing its own original programming. With the release of House of Cards, Netflix is testing the waters and gauging the public’s reaction to a whole new type of broadcasting before shit gets serious with the fourth season of Arrested Development.
In what can be described as, at worst, above adequate, and at best, smart and exciting, Kevin Spacey stars as Francis “Frank” Underwood, a South Carolina democrat and the House Majority Whip in present day Washington DC. Incomprehensibly clever and seemingly always in control, Frank navigates the treacherous political landscape utilizing hard partying Congressman Peter Russo (played by a wig-less Corey Stoll, who portrayed Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris) and political reporter Zoe Barnes (played by Kate Mara, Lisbeth Salander’s older sister). These characters and most others serve as pawns in Frank’s elaborate plans to reach his own political ambition, namely bringing down newly elected President Garret Walker. After helping to get Walker elected, Frank is snubbed by the new administration and is passed over for the Secretary of State position he had been promised, swearing revenge in the most delightful southern accent this side of Tennessee Williams. The best part of this series are the incredible performances the entire cast gives. Spacey creates a man who is relatively likable, although morally ambiguous and (at times) deliciously devious. Robin Wright, who stars as Frank’s wife, Claire Underwood, the cut-throat environmentalist in charge of the non-profit Clean Water Initiative, is equally talented (enjoy her while you can before her career goes balls-to-the-wall ridiculous in Two Mothers). fie show’s cast has an incredible pedigree, and the performances are rich and subtle. House of Cards also features slick directing (David Fincher helms the first two episodes, and Joel Schumacher gets in there too, if that’s your thing) and some awesome back and forth dialogue, which often ends in a supporting cast member having his or her ass handed to them by Frank’s verbal gymnastics. The show’s only hiccup is in its most exciting character: Frank Underwood is just too damn exceptional. Throughout this first season, I found myself asking when, not how, Frank would solve any of the problems he encounters. He is always operating on a level that is above and beyond the plebeians surrounding him, and at times it deflates the tension. The stakes can never feel that high when good ol’ Frank is always three steps ahead of everyone else. This is only amplified by Frank continually breaking the fourth wall to chat directly with us, the audience, to let us into his thought process through Sorkin-esque soliloquies.
Learning from the mistakes of their first original series Lilyhammer (2012), the Norwegian-American dramedy starring Little Steven of East Street Band fame, Net!ix has been practically shoving House of Cards down our throats. If you have internetted within the past year, you’ve probably seen some form of advertisement for the show. Though the show is enjoyable, House of Cards’ lasting impression will be how it changes the way we watch television shows. Unlike traditional TV, the show’s entire season was released all at once, 13 episodes ready to be consumed over the course of a week or a particularly antisocial weekend. It takes a smarter person than I to determine how that will affect the media landscape but Netflix seems to have high hopes. Arrested Development comes back this May, and following the release of DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo in July, Netflix will air a follow up television series Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team) in December 2013. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say the future of television is happening before our eyes.