House of Cards season 5: Can the show compete with Donald Trump?

House of Cards season 5: Can the show compete with Donald Trump?

House of Cards season 5: Can the show compete with Donald Trump?

Updated 30 May 2017, 9:25 AEST

To all of you preparing for a House of Cards binge, remember: It's just a TV show!

He may be one of the most unpopular new presidents in US history with his administration stumbling from crisis to crisis but, from today, Donald Trump catches a lucky break.

Right across the country, Americans will be turning their energies to hating a commander in chief even more widely reviled than the New York billionaire.

Welcome back, Francis Underwood! We've missed you.

Kevin Spacey reprises his role as corrupt and murderous US president Frank Underwood in season five of House of Cards, to be released today by Netflix.

He is the ultimate pantomime villain of the digital age, ably assisted by his scheming wife (and vice-presidential nominee) Claire, played with relish by the marvellous Robin Wright.

Even though the scripts were written well before Mr Trump took office, the season trailer has a distinctly familiar feel.

Protestors at the White House are brandishing signs screaming "Not My President", Congress is in uproar … but the man in the Oval Office is unperturbed.

"The American people don't know what's best for them," says Frank in his silky South Carolina accent.

"I do. I know exactly what they need."

The new season picks up where the last one left off. Underwood is declaring war on a terror group at the same time as he is facing persistent questions from an assertive press about his dubious path to power.

The big dilemma hanging over season five is whether Americans can cope with this dark TV fantasy colliding head-on with political reality.

Will they find it uncomfortable or just incredibly exhausting?

As the Late Show host Stephen Colbert put it to Spacey last week:

"Is it odd to do a show like House of Cards that does not seem as crazy as reality any more?"

Spacey agreed but argued Underwood has better writers than Trump!

TV presidencies have tended to work best when they are out of kilter with the Washington political cycle.

For most of the West Wing (1999-2006), the ultra-liberal and intimidatingly intelligent Jed Bartlett served in a parallel universe alongside conservative Republican George W Bush.

For the first four seasons of House of Cards, Americans have enjoyed the indulgence of watching the amoral Underwood tear his way to power; a character that was as far removed as possible from Barack Obama.

Perhaps life imitating art will work in Netflix's favour. Or perhaps a lot of potential viewers will decide they don't want a double dose of political mayhem.

From a production and writing standpoint, the early reviews are positive.

Whereas season four at times became just a bit too melodramatic (an assassination attempt and a presidential liver transplant, anybody?), the latest episodes are said to be more like the taut thrillers in seasons one and two, as the lowly (and grubby) Congressman embarked on his path of political destruction.

The menacing Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is back as Frank's chief of staff and his bête noire this time around is political consultant Leann Harvey (played by Neve Campbell).

The dogged former editor of the Washington *cough* Herald, Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver), returns to again clash swords with the President he sensationally exposed at the end of the season four.

So, to all of you out there preparing for a House of Cards binge, remember: It's just a TV show! One perhaps that Mr Trump should have been watching over the last few years.

Colbert reminded Spacey he once told him that in those moments when Underwood turns to the camera to talk to the audience, the actor was pretending to talk to Mr Trump — then nothing more than a boisterous reality TV show host.

As Spacey says: "What has become clear since then is that he's just not listening at all."