Why West Wing is Better than House of Cards

By Natali Andrés on February 6, 2016

Warning! Spoilers below!

House of Cards is one of the most hyped and watched shows in existence. It seems like Netflix has the Midas touch. Everything they put out becomes one of the most watched shows, and House of Cards was one of their first exclusive shows to really blow up. I remember the night season three came out (I was still only about halfway through season one). I was riding up the slow as all hell elevator to my fourth floor dorm room and there was a guy with a laptop sitting open in the crook of his arm ready to download the new season the moment it aired.

I started watching the show with a friend fall semester of freshman year, and so far I have not gotten about halfway through season two. By contrast I started watching The West Wing on Netflix sometime in December of 2015 and I am currently on season six. That’s most of the series in about two and a half months.

Out of the both shows I feel like The West Wing better fulfills its promise to deliver a political drama.

Please, let me explain.

Part of what gives House of Cards its “bingeable” addictive quality is that it advertises itself as a “political drama”, but in the end it seems to be following the formula of the “dark” big network shows. Whether the chicken came before the egg is not the point I’m trying to make here. House of Cards feels more like a drama taking place in Washington D.C. than the political drama it advertises itself as. The political workings of the American Government with all its issues and humanity is not the main focus of the show, but rather we are drawn in by the borderline evil characters and Kevin Spacey monologues through the fourth wall. Without Kevin Spacey and his drawled matter of fact monologues would the show really hold up? What would the show be if you cut out all the sex, violence, and over the top levels of political espionage?

I think what turns me off about the show is the character of Frank  Underwood himself (along with all the others). He’s shown as barely human in the way he always seems to succeed. Underwood is selfish and greedy in his quest for power. His goal isn’t to do what a senator is supposed to do which is to serve his constituents/the American people. His goal seems to be power for the sake of power. After the initial “ooohh wow, so dark and different” reaction fades away the characters start to fall a little flat. There’s no way to connect to them so the story has to keep twisting and contorting itself to have plot drive the interest. In my experience, it’s characters that tend to inspire lasting loyalty than confounded plotlines.

The West Wing by contrast has nothing but interesting characters driven by the desire to use their limited time in the White House to help the American people. You have intense respect for the academic Jed Bartlett and his passion to serve the country as best he can. His wife, Dr. Abigail Bartlett, is an equally interesting character made perfect by her flaws. The rest of the cast runs around the West Wing coloring the episodes with dry humor and their own unique personalities. The characters together make the show, but no one character is absolutely essential. In season five Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (played by Rob Lowe), who for most of season one was the focus of the show, leaves. The show moves on keeping it’s interest.

The twists, although quite curly at times, feel like something completely believable rather than the convoluted scheme between Underwood and Zoey Barnes ending in her getting shoved in front of a subway train. In the West Wing we see the President deal with the death of his long time personal secretary over the course of many episodes, as well as the emotional repercussions of having to act as commander and chief while never having served in the military. The interest comes not from the plot twists, but how the characters react and overcome the obstacles thrown in front of them.

I fell in love with all the characters in The West Wing. They were all such a beautiful show of the positive side of humanity. If you want to watch a show that focuses on actual politics, or just has better characters, the West Wing is the best choice.

Disagree? You’re welcome to comment and we can discuss.

Virgo. Cuban-American born and raised in Miami. Reading, writing, and anything food.

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