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Dylan Byers No Fan of ‘HoC.’ So What?

“Sorry to be a wet-blanket, but Washington’s collective celebration of House of Cards seems like a dereliction of our journalistic duty to be critical. We’ve participated in marketing a show to the rest of the country – Washington can’t get enough of House of Cards! – without acknowledging that it’s jumped the shark.”

That’s the conclusion from Politico‘s Dylan Byers on the second season of “House of Cards.” Wet blanket indeed.

We take Dylan’s point that DC journos have been the unwitting (or perhaps witting) marketing accomplices for the show, but so what? It’s not real. Do journalists really have an obligation to be critical of fiction. And pulp fiction at that?

“The second season of Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ was a pretty big let down.” he says. “The storylines were preposterous. The principle characters were flat and cliched. The efforts at narrative transgression, either violent or sexual, were pathetic and unconvincing.”

One could criticize “Scandal” (and definitely “Homeland”)  for the same reasons. Except why would you? Call us low-brow, but while verisimilitude and believeability are certainly important aspects of a television show, they aren’t the only benchmarks worth measuring by. There’s also good writing, excitement, surprise, catharsis, emotional engagement, titillation, and provocation -all of which “House of Cards” has in spades (ha).

And we’d beg to differ that the characters are any more flat than C.J. Craig or Sam Seaborn or Jed Bartlett -all glorified archetypes of Washington do-gooders. The dialogue in “The West Wing” was patently unbelievable -as was the idea that anyone could possibly be so completely driven by altruism and patriotism and be without serious personality flaws. But those characters were still compelling. Their struggles and travails were still of interest to viewers. And the actors who portrayed them still gave masterful performances. And ultimately, “The West Wing” was entertaining -the only measure that really matters on television in the end. We saw what happens when you try to hew too closely to the truth in a fictitious show about politics and journalism. It’s called “The Newsroom,” and it’s cancelled.

And wethinks Mr. Byers doth protest too much.

“The backslapping enthusiasm that greeted Matt Bai, Julianna Goldman, Major Garrett and other guest-starring journalists on Twitter only reinforces the idea that the Beltway media is self-obsessed,” he says.

Perhaps it is not disgust he feels, but guilt. Politico has, perhaps more than any other single institution, made its name on sensationalizing the oft-boring world of Washington politics and encouraging self-indulgence among journalists (See: This Town). It strikes us as rather rich that he laments the salacious and ridiculous way a fictional Washington is portrayed by Netflix, while his own publication does the same thing in real life. One ought not throw stones in glass houses -even at houses made of cards.

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