Putting its meta-textual sense of humor to the side, the biggest thing that stuck with me after Community’s season six finale was how far the cast has come. That episode, “Emotional Consequences of Network Television”, ends with much of the show’s cast growing up emotionally.
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When David Letterman first announced his plans to retire from The Late Show a few months ago, I was somewhat surprised but not initially devastated. In the back of my mind, I knew that he was in his late 60s, that he had outlasted Jay Leno as the final member of his generation still hosting a late-night talk show, and that he’d be hanging it up sooner rather than later. But I still wasn’t ready. Now that he has officially wrapped up his show with his Wednesday, 20 May broadcast, I, like the other fans who grew up watching him every night, am bracing for life without Dave.
Leonard Nimoy is gone. Spock has finally left this planet and beamed up to cosmic places unknown. He wasn’t the first of the original Star Trek cast to leave us. DeForest Kelly earned that sad distinction back in 1999. Then everyone’s favorite fake Scotsman, James Doohan, followed suit in 2005. So we’ve been prepared for another intergalactic parting, especially when you consider the rest of the cast—William Shatner (age 83), George Takei (77), Nichelle Nichols (82), and Walter Koenig (78)—are all in the twilight of their years.
In case you somehow missed it, Jon Stewart has announced that sometime in 2015, he will leave The Daily Show, the trademark faux-news comedy program he commandeered from Craig Kilborn and transformed into a cultural powerhouse whose format is often imitated but truly, never bettered. “Did I die?” Stewart asked on the 11 February broadcast the day after his announcement, stunned at the outpouring of sadness on social media regarding his decision. Indeed, reading tale after tale of writers and young Americans who became politically active or went out and pursued degrees because of what Stewart has done is nothing short of incredible.
Among the first of Nexflix’s now hefty portfolio of original series, House of Cards has a lot that sets it apart from the traditional TV shows that we’re used to watching. Produced and distributed uniquely for online viewers, the series seems to relish in the freedom Netflix has provided it just as much as its fans savor the cold, calculating evil that is Frank Underwood. While many are eagerly looking forward to the release of the third season, I’ve also been looking back on the very first episode, trying to parse through what made this show feel so unique from the very start.
Unlike the vast majority of television programs, House of Cards never had a pilot phase, and consequentially has no “pilot” in the usual sense of the term. Pilot episodes are typically a means of proving a concept’s viability before the network makes a long-term commitment, but Netflix signed on for 26 episodes before a single scene was filmed. Chapter One is therefore precisely that: the first installment of a much longer narrative, and hardly a self-contained story.