Remember the hit television show The West Wing? It ran from 1999 to 2006 and was highly rated, winning three Golden Globe Awards and 26 Emmys. Even with its overt left-wing bias, Sorkin’s storylines gave us an idealized yet engaging glimpse into what life in the Executive branch could be like.
But I stopped watching roughly around September 11, 2001.
That’s the time when political and social reality became more dramatic than anything produced for the small screen.
How could President Bartlett’s challenges complete with the fact that New York City was hit by a massive terrorist attack and President George Bush’s new presidency was gearing up for war? An anti-war movement was quickly forming as politicians on both sides of the aisle were maneuvering to discredit and oust each other.
House of Cards season five premieres May 30, but this time around I’m not as excited about it. Frank and Claire Underwood’s ruthless ascent to the White House through cold calculation and complex schemes captured the eyeballs of millions of Americans and boosted Netflix’s fortunes.
Part of the fun of House of Cards was leaning over to my wife and asking, “Do you really think Washington is like this?”
With the exception of the absurd, over the top murder of Rachel Posner by Doug Stamper, most of the cutthroat intrigue seems plausible.
So why might season five disappoint? Because, like The West Wing, the very real political landscape provides all the drama one might need. The Trump Presidency is a five-way scrum between him, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, the Press and Hollywood. Directors and actors are screeching for impeachment. Journalists have chosen to take Trump’s taunts personally and dropped any pretense of objectivity. Democrats are trying to regroup with all the demeanor of John McEnroe complete with his trademark “you can’t be serious” look on their befuddled faces.
It will be interesting to see whether House of Cards enjoys the success of previous years. Can the Underwoods outdo reality?