By Tom Gliatto Lesley Messer
February 11, 2013 12:00 PM

KEVIN SPACEY’S POWER PLAY

House of Cards

Netflix, available Feb. 1 |

DRAMA

Is TV’s Golden Age finally ready to move beyond the networks and cable? Well, when the streaming video service Netflix can launch a brilliant, 13-hour series starring Kevin Spacey as an American Richard III, we may even be heading for the Renaissance. Plumed hats, everyone! House of Cards, a reboot of a great British series, has Spacey as southern Representative Francis Underwood, who in his long career has learned the foibles of those above and below and possesses the tactical wiles to exploit them all. Passed over for Secretary of State by the new administration, he decides to exact a revenge that will wreck careers and ultimately place him-in the Oval Office? Spacey, looking a bit like Dan Rather with spider poison in his veins, confides everything to us: his contempt, scorn and fury. It’s a wonderful performance dotted with acerbic touches-he gives us a discreet little wave during the inaugural-that don’t for a second lessen his dangerousness. The two hours made available for review (the series can be streamed in its entirety Feb. 1) are cinematically rich, full of sleek, oily pools of darkness: This is a Washington, D.C., in which Deep Throat could be the Dark Lord. But that role, of course, is already filled by Spacey.

The Americans

FX, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

DRAMA

Set in the ’80s, The Americans is about a suburban family in which the parents (Felicity’s Keri Russell and Brothers & Sisters’ Matthew Rhys) are in fact Soviet-born spies. That’s a daringly novel concept-at times the show is like the shaded area in a Venn diagram, with one circle labeled Homeland and the other Parenthood. The wife is a bit nonplussed when her husband seduces a gorgeous blonde into the world of espionage, while he wonders if they’ve backed the wrong ideological horse. Meanwhile, enemies must be brutally dispatched. It’s tense, engrossing, mildly ludicrous-and worth checking out before the Cold War melts.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO TOM: tomsreviews@peoplemag.com

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