To Play the King (with no King)

kitchen kingTelevision reception being so poor here (I am trying to sort out a decent aerial) I have been binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. First the more recent American adaptation, which I had previously only watched bits of, and then the original UK adaptation from the 1990s.

The American version is much longer, and obviously, far more money has been spent on a very polished production. By comparison, when one starts watching the UK version, it seems small and dowdy: stuffy characters in stuffy rooms wearing suits that have not spent nearly enough time at the dry cleaners.

But then, in the middle part of the trilogy, the UK version introduces the brilliant Michael Kitchen as the King, and the whole thing comes alive.

The Americans, of course, were careless enough to mislay their proud status as part of the kingdom some time ago. With the benefit of hindsight, mistakes were made all round at that point in history, the whole thing largely being an exercise by the jealous French desperate to try to damage their rivals, and result since then has been that the United States has been just a shade naff. That is water long under the bridge, but the question is “Not having a king, is there any way that the American series can adapt this crucial part of the plot?”

There is a pale reflection of all of this in Frank Underwood’s conflict with Congress, but that can hardly match the dramatic charge inherent in the original plot.

And there is, I suspect, another problem. The American version goes on and on, almost like a soap. And so, well-crafted as it is, there is no determined march towards the finale. It is a bit like turning Hamlet into a soap, the plot never able to get anywhere near the final scene. Like a slowly leaking lilo, a certain degree of flaccidity is inevitable.


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