This Season On 'House Of Cards,' It's Tough To Be The Boss New episodes of Netflix's House of Cards debut today, and NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says this season's challenges may please critics who say the show's vision of Washington, D.C., runs too smoothly.
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This Season On 'House Of Cards,' It's Tough To Be The Boss

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This Season On 'House Of Cards,' It's Tough To Be The Boss

This Season On 'House Of Cards,' It's Tough To Be The Boss

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Fans of good government be warned - Kevin Spacey's murderous politician Frank Underwood returns today. That's because Netflix is out with its third season of "House Of Cards." People who thought Underwood's road to the presidency was too easy will love this new batch of episodes, so says our TV critic Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: When "House Of Cards'" third season opens, Frank Underwood is fooling the world again, like in this scene, where he's pretending to honor his father's grave for the press.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

KEVIN SPACEY: (As Frank Underwood) Nobody showed up for his funeral except me, not even my mother. But I'll tell you this, though, Pop, when they bury me, it won't be in my backyard. And when they come to pay their respects, they'll have to wait in line.

DEGGANS: He relieves himself on his father's grave when the media's not looking, and that's when we see the real Underwood - manipulative, arrogant and ruthlessly focused on his own legacy. We also see a man used to winning hit a few roadblocks as president. One of the first signs of trouble is Underwood's struggle to explain a new jobs program on "The Colbert Report," which Stephen Colbert is still hosting in the "House Of Cards" universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

SPACEY: (As Frank Underwood) This is a fundamentally different look at how to solve the problem of unemployment. It has the size and the scope of the New Deal.

STEPHEN COLBERT: (As himself) Oh, so it's a socialist redistribution of wealth wherein the baby boomers will latch onto the millennials like a lamp ray and just keep sucking until they're as dry as a crouton.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: There's even trouble with Underwood's Lady Macbeth of a wife, Claire Underwood, who reacts to a crisis of conscious by publicly undercutting her husband. That enrages President Underwood.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

SPACEY: (As Frank Underwood) But do you want to know what takes real courage? Keeping your mouth shut no matter what you might be feeling, holding it all together when the stakes are this high.

ROBIN WRIGHT: (As Claire Underwood) We're murderers, Francis.

SPACEY: (As Frank Underwood) No we're not, we're survivors.

DEGGANS: These setbacks actually solve a problem critics uncovered in "House Of Cards" first two seasons - everything worked too well. At a time of real-life congressional paralysis, Frank Underwood got a historic education bill passed. He also killed a political patsy and an investigative journalist looking into his crime. But as Colbert notes, President Underwood's got a different track record and a dismal approval rating.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")

COLBERT: (As himself) You've been president for six months. Unemployment has gone up, our trade deficit with China has increased. I'm not entirely sure that you'll be able to eradicate unemployment the same way you've been able to eradicate your approval polls.

DEGGANS: Sometimes these setbacks can be as frustrating for the viewer as they are for Underwood. It turns him from a devilish antihero with all the answers into an impotent villain. Still, the new season's first six episodes are a binge-watcher's delight. Now, binging on such shows is a little dangerous. It's easy to miss important details in the rush to uncover the next plot point. But binging on "House Of Cards" keeps you from noticing how much of a political soap opera it really is. And if Claire Underwood really decides to fight her husband's evil, it could be the TV showdown of the year - redeeming the culture of Washington politics while rewarding the binge-watchers one more time. I'm Eric Deggans.

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