Maybe it says something about our national culture that “House of Cards,” a popular TV drama about a depraved Southern politician, sometimes seems saner and more reasonable than real-life Washington, D.C.
The show returned this month for a fourth season on Netflix, a streaming service that releases a season’s worth of episodes all at once, allowing fans to binge-watch “House of Cards” for hours on end. Too bad we couldn’t zip through the present presidential campaign in a weekend, too.
As the latest season of “House of Cards” opens, conniving Southern Congressman Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, has managed to lie, cheat and even murder his way to the White House. His fictional secretary of state, Catherine Durant, is a former U.S. senator from Louisiana, her background presumably preparing her for Underwood’s underhanded tactics. Louisiana also figures in a surprise development at the party convention where Underwood is vying to keep his job. Underwood’s path to the presidency is paved with one improbable plot twist after another, but then again, the guilty pleasure of “House of Cards” is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Of the show’s myriad fantasies, perhaps its biggest fairy tale is the notion that in Washington, big things are still getting done — and pretty quickly at that. With the wave of a finger, or so it seems, Underwood can bend the federal bureaucracy to his will.
Maybe some Louisiana viewers who lived through Hurricane Katrina are still chuckling over a “House of Cards” development in Season Three, when the president used the expertise of FEMA — yes, FEMA — to help his government jobs program go faster.
An even bigger whopper unfolds in the show’s depiction of Congress, where members are still working on — and passing — major pieces of legislation, even crossing the aisle to do it.
In that regard, “House of Cards,” for all its mean and mercenary sensibility, is an oddly nostalgic show, evoking a time when government was about grand bargains, not grinding stalemate.
Some of us are old enough to remember when that principle of governance was a fact, not a show business fiction.