Episode 73: Inside House of Cards Part 1

Where exactly is that line between truth, fiction and Washington politics? That’s the question we try to answer with “House of Cards” week on DecodeDC.

February has been a brutal month for most of us – snow and cold and ice and kids home from school and trips cancelled. Perhaps the only thing that redeems this month is the release of season three of “House of Cards” on Feb. 27.

Perhaps it is our fascination with the dysfunction of Washington that makes the Netflix drama so irresistible. Perhaps it’s the fact that the series takes you where no journalist is allowed to go – into the fantastical and not so fantastical political wheeling and dealing going on all around us – with a large dose of dramatic license.

Where exactly is that line between truth, fiction and Washington politics? That’s the question we try to answer with a special series of podcasts – that’s right, it is “House of Cards” week on DecodeDC. Whether you are a series fan or just want to get the inside scoop on the dirtiest deeds of politicians, journalists and the political operatives that occupy Washington, you will definitely want to listen.

Spoiler alert – we’re going to talk about things that happened in seasons one and two.

In case you missed the first two seasons – here are the essentials.

Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, has wheedled and schemed his way from Congress to the vice presidency to the Oval Office.  Together with his equally conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, they knock down every conceivable barrier, using any means necessary, in their quest for power. Along the way there’s murder, blackmail, a risque assortment of sexual forays, a crazy trade deal with China, a lot of seduction and deception. Those on the Underwoods’ side are rewarded, those obstructing their path are mowed down.  Where do these people come up with these plots? We go to the sources for the answer.

  • In episode one of “Inside House of Cards,” we take you into the writers room.  Staff writer Bill Kennedy explains the narrative and the relationships and the key scenes that define seasons one and two.
  • Journalism takes a shellacking in the series and in our second episode, we speak with Matt Bai, formally a political reporter at The New York Times Magazine.  Bai plays a political reporter for The New York Times in season two and says the series gets at some essential truths about Washington and journalism.
  • In episode three, we enter the world of Capitol-Hill-staffer-turned-lobbyist.  Jimmy Williams has led the real life of one of the fictional characters in the series, Remy Danton. Williams says the life of a lobbyist is about one thing, raising money for members of Congress.
  • House of Cards has a lot of nasty people, but some of the nastiest are female reporters. In episode four, we talk to two real-life women journalists who cover Washington — Pam Kirkland of the Washington Post, the paper fictionalized in “House of Cards”, and Carrie Wells of the Baltimore Sun, stand-in and real life set for the imagined “Washington Herald.”
  • In our fifth and final episode, we speak with Beau Willimon, the man behind the series. Willimon adapted the British version of “House of Cards” for the American audience and runs the show.  A former campaign staffer, Willimon knows how the system works from the inside out, and as playwright he knows how to do drama.

Download the DecodeDC’s “Inside House of Cards” special series starting today and all next week – or, you can just binge listen to them all before the 27th!

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