"To Introduce our Guest Star, that's What I'm Here to Do..." The Hensonverse Fan Contribution Thread

NBC Sued Over SNL "Peanuts" Parody
This afternoon, the National Broadcasting Company, Broadway Video and JJ Sedelmaier Productions have each been named defendants in a lawsuit filed by United Feature Syndicate. At issue is a TV Funhouse segment that aired last month on Saturday Night Live. In it, Charlie Brown is shocked to learn that the Little Red-Haired Girl is really a boy in drag. When asked about the spoof, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was both distraught and angry, stating that he felt the skit tarnished the innocence of his beloved newspaper strip. The lawsuit will go to trial in two weeks.
- CNN ShowBiz Tonight; September 12, 1996

Depending on what month and year is current in the When You Wish Upon a Frog thread, the date listed above will be edited accordingly. Thank you.
NBC Sued Over SNL "Peanuts" Parody
This afternoon, the National Broadcasting Company, Broadway Video and JJ Sedelmaier Productions have each been named defendants in a lawsuit filed by United Feature Syndicate. At issue is a TV Funhouse segment that aired last month on Saturday Night Live. In it, Charlie Brown is shocked to learn that the Little Red-Haired Girl is really a boy in drag. When asked about the spoof, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was both distraught and angry, stating that he felt the skit tarnished the innocence of his beloved newspaper strip. The lawsuit will go to trial in two weeks.
- CNN ShowBiz Tonight; September 12, 1996

Depending on what month and year is current in the When You Wish Upon a Frog thread, the date listed above will be edited accordingly. Thank you.
Yeah, I think you were better off having this parody a decade later in your own timeline, when Charles Schulz is probably dead by that point and couldn't comment on it.

Add that to the rest of Disney's problems in the late 90s for NBC, and you can make your own depreciations here.
Yeah, I think you were better off having this parody a decade later in your own timeline, when Charles Schulz is probably dead by that point and couldn't comment on it.

Add that to the rest of Disney's problems in the late 90s for NBC, and you can make your own depreciations here.
@Geekhis Khan
Has there been any controversies that Jim Henson has had to deal with in the Hensonverse? Like for instance, has he been the target of any moral panics?
Ten 90’s British Comedies That Deserve More Attention
By Tom Elliston, Pop Culture UK Netsite (November 7, 2019)
Guest Post by Plateosaurus, Mr Harris Syed, @drporter357 and @Nathanoraptor

We Brits have given the world lots of comedy classics for the telly[1] over the years from Fawlty Towers and Monty Python in the 70’s, to Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, and Yes, Minister of Thatcher's 80’s, while the 1990’s under Neil Kinnock gave us Misbehaving Men, Gamers[2] and As Time Goes By. But these shows we are listing, from the next half of the decade that's an era unto its own, were never given much attention from audiences and often critics. We say that is unfair because these are diamonds in the rough worth checking out.

10. Ecce Earth (1998-9)​

= this show

We start the list off with not the usual Britcom that makes up the majority of the list (whoops, spoilers!), but a satirical mockumentary series. After Chris Morris lampooned the nightly news as part of The Day Today, nearly being the new narrator for the then-ongoing educational series Eyewitness[3] gave him the idea for his next project to lampoon a different kind of informative TV, the natural history and science show, like Horizon, anything put out by David Attenborough and the Natural History Unit, and the aforementioned Eyewitness.

Within BBC2’s Ecce Earth, Morris explores a different topic each episode, but this being penned by him, each subject is always in an exaggerated, satirical light. Did you know marsupials have always been on top until a snap election just a few million years ago, or that grass can tell the political direction of anything that walks on them, or that seagulls are so gross even germs avoid them? It's all presented in a serious, seemingly straightforward manner, right down to featuring interviews with actual scientists and using (oft-edited) stock footage. Otherwise, its subjects were presented in an Eyewitness-esque white space or on controlled sets replicating where they reside.

The series isn’t just using all this for absurdity’s sake though. Instead, Ecce Earth is about how little most of us understand the planet we live in and everything that lives on it, especially in the increasingly urban, tech-driven world we increasingly live in, and even the ones who do still don’t know everything. This stems from Morris reading and watching Eyewitness ahead of his audition to get an idea of what to expect only to note that the franchise’s style of isolating its subjects in white backdrops pretty much removed them from their greater context in the world and didn’t let audiences know them.

While Ecce Earth was able to get a second series[4], many critics and audiences felt the humour was too narrow and specific in its topics, and even Chris Morris eventually felt the premise didn’t lend itself well to long-term comedy and moved onto , not helped by other shows outcompeting it in ratings. Today, it is much less known than both TDT or the latter creations like Brass Eye[5], outside of airing on Discovery Channel every April Fool’s Day for a while and not advertised as satire. But by any rate, Ecce Earth is a brilliant show, especially if you're in the know about science and can detect what’s actually true facts within all the absurdity.

Proposed by Plateosaurus

9. XtraTime (1999-2003)​

= this show but at a video store instead of an apartment or a community college

Created by auteur Edgar Wright, the Channel 4 workplace comedy XtraTime[6] was set in the titular HMV-esque video store located in a small countryside British town run by average joes Michael Wilkins (Simon Pegg) and Jason Holmes (Nick Frost). The show derived much of its humour on the mundane day-to-day operations of our protagonists’ store and contained numerous references to films, TV shows, music and video games, both well-known and obscure. XtraTime is notable for being the first collaboration between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost before the two men would go on to do far bigger things in and out of Britain with or without Wright.

Each episode had an A-plot and a B-plot. The A-plot focused on Michael and Jason running their store and the B-plot was about what their co-workers were doing on and off the job such as buying groceries from the local Tesco or hiring a babysitter to take care of their children. Both plots were loosely connected to each other especially at the end of each episode where Michael, Jason and their colleagues would usually discuss what they did as well as their favourite works of fiction, even going so far as to re-enact iconic scenes. Sometimes, the show would often lampshade how stale its formula was and would spice things up by having entire episodes where Michael, Jason and their colleagues would do something other than running Sunset or doing regular things such as going on vacation to a foreign country or host a big party at their home just for fun. Let’s not forget that the show has a memorable and catchy theme song in “Sleep” by English rock band Slowdive, who had some of their music featured in episodes of the series.

Despite being well-received by critics for its humour and performances from the cast, XtraTime struggled in ratings because of its weird, off-the-pan humour and extensive continuity despite being a workcom. Nevertheless, the show winning numerous awards coupled with strong network support from Channel 4 would allow XtraTime to last five series though the last one almost didn’t come to fruition until strong support from the devoted fanbase allowed it to be greenlit. Nowadays, XtraTime is recognized as a cult classic that served as the launching pad for the careers of Wright, Pegg and Frost.

Proposed by drporter357

8. Blackadder in the Fifth Form (1997-8)​


Richard Curtis’ Blackadder has been a staple of British television as a comedic intergenerational saga about Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder, who gets caught up in the tumultuous troubles of his royal relatives from the Middle Ages to World War I. Since the conclusion of Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989, Blackadder laid largely dormant outside of two specials set in the English Civil War and Victorian Britain respectively. However, Curtis still had interest in continuing the story of Edmund Blackadder so he decided to pen a story with comedy legend Stephen Fry about the great-grandnephew of the previous Blackadder from Blackadder Goes Forth about boarding schools in the 1950s[7]. Starring a then-unknown Heath Ledger[8] as the fifth Edmund Blackadder and Ian Hallard as his toady Baldrick, this fifth instalment conceived by Stephen Fry that ran weekly for 18 episodes is set at the fictional St. Lawrence’s all-boys boarding school, wherein 15-year old Edmund Blackadder V attempts to improve his social standing as top dog at the school via being the standard bully, cad and coward so common to boarding school literature; as per the usual formula, he is not only hindered by his loyal yet rather dim sidekick Baldrick (who, in yet another - albeit slight - deviation from the norm, combines the hypercompetent intelligence of the first Baldrick with the seeming lack of common sense or logic from the second through fourths) but also the various recurring characters from series past, here mostly recast as Edmund’s schoolmates.

Controversial among fans as well as critics initially for lacking either Rowan Atkinson or Tony Robinson as Blackadder and Baldrick respectively, Blackadder in the Fifth Form has been reappraised in hindsight for its wonderfully satirical take on the boarding school story genre, often described as “Tom Brown’s School Days skewered and torn apart through the bleakley cynical lens of Geoffery Willans’ Molesworth and the dysfunctional school setting of St. Trinian’s”.

After the conclusion of Fifth Form, Atkinson and Robinson would return for another two series - The Blackadder Six, set in the 1960s and a second, set in the 1980s cabinet of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher titled Blackadder the Seventh.

7. Mighty Young Men (1995-7)​


Like these two works but from Linehan and Matthews and slightly more successful

Another underrated entry from Channel 4, Mighty Young Men focuses on two perpetually broke stoner hippies, Robert Dalton (played by Craig Charles) and Peter Laurents (played by Mark McGann) who go through the motions and struggles of working at the Wimpy-esque fast food place Namby-Pamby from preparing meals for angry customers and providing toys the young kiddos to getting to work on time and dealing with uncooperative co-workers. On the surface for casual viewers it’s your average Brit workcom but the show was actually a clever satirical dramedy of the fast food Industry and class in the UK. For instance, there is a scene in an episode where Robert is trying to send his daughter to a private school but he and his wife don’t have enough money to pay for tuition or when Peter gets angry at his manager for his low wages but tells him that if he complains in his face again he’s fired. Mighty Young Men also focused on migrant workers like Robert and Peter’s Pakistani neighbour Malik (played by Naveen Andrews), who was raised in an Urdu-language home and doesn’t speak much English so he has to rely on an Urdu-English dictionary which produces some hilarious attempts at speaking the language to most Brits as in “my hovercraft is full of eels'' levels of badly garbled nonsense to native speakers. Of course, the fantastic comedy writing from the show is expected from later Father Ted[9] co-creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews, who infuse the characters with a lot of chemistry, personality and heart.

One of the series’ more notable recurring parts was co-creator Arthur Matthews, playing his Friar Ted stand-up character. After the character became popular, Friar Ted was planned to have his own spin-off - however, C4 executives asked the character be changed to a priest, as they feared audiences wouldn’t know what a friar was (outside of Robin Hood). Linehan and Matthews changed the character to the relatively similar Father Ted (eventually played by Dermot Morgan) whose show began in 1996, with one episode “A Tale of Two Teds”, featuring Matthews as Friar Ted.

Besides the comedic satire and gags, Mighty Young Men had a catchy theme song performed by the pop rock band Boys Don’t Cry, best known for their hit single “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” in 1986.

Mighty Young Men was praised by critics for its witty, sharp comedy and lasted for three series. Although Mighty Young Men has been largely overshadowed by Father Ted, it still enjoys a cult following from Linehan and Matthews fans to this very day.

6. Crude (1997)​

= Sorta like these in terms of lower-class antics and horrible yet somewhat endearing leads, all on a British oil rig.

Set aboard a fictitious oil rig in the North Sea, ITV’s Crude follows the lives of the workers who operate on it, and live up to the show’s title. The characters, led by rig manager Mark Walton (played by Ray Winstone), are rude and very foul-mouthed (as in F-and-C-word levels of swearing) and aggressive, with very few of them being likeable, but all in a hilarious way as we see them make obvious goofy mistakes and bollocking on the job and ticking off their equally-awful superiors. That said, we do see the workers spend some time with their families or talk about their favourite hobbies to humanise them so as not to turn off audiences from watching it. The show also had it’s fair share of political satire with the characters being Tories or Labourites and occasionally getting into fights with each other or a recurring group of pro-environmentalists called Lads for Earth who would often interrupt or even harass our main characters. All of this to be expected from a comedic genius of a creator like Billy Connolly.

The series is infamous for skewering the fossil fuel industry in the UK as a destructive and foolish enterprise that brings misery to all who surround it, from the workers at the bottom to the executives and barons on top. Unfortunately, the show would be cancelled after just one series. The first was that the Beatrice AP oil spill in Scotland occurred later that year[10], but the second is where things get weird: the show’s creators would be sued for apparent libel and defamation by the Shell and other British oil companies, and the press blew it all up. How many sitcom creators can say they’ve had to subsequently testify in Parliament? In fact, the show and the hullabaloo surrounding it is credited for bringing about a major decline in support for the British oil industry as part of a larger backlash against fracking and pollution throughout the late ‘90s and ‘00s. So while Crude may have been shut off too early, its legacy would extend beyond even the screen.

Proposed by Plateosaurus

5. Them’s The Breaks (1997-8)​

= this show but made in the ‘90s and focusing on two students.

This Channel 4 show from Roy Clarke of Keeping Up Appearances fame chronicles the adventures of lazy “aspiring musician” Colin Thompson (Robert Webb) and stuffed-shirt history student Ray Davis (David Mitchell), two recent university NEET graduates who are stuck in a flat without any aim or idea for their futures.

Both Colin and Ray take up a series of odd jobs to support themselves from roofing and babysitting to working as bartenders at a down-and-dirty bottomless gentlemen’s club and assistants in recreational leisure centres. Needless to say, Colin and Ray prove to be comically inept at their jobs and get pretty fired for their antics. But the show balanced its dark goofiness with in-depth, pathos-filled explorations into the lives of Colin and Ray such as their favourite hobbies and meeting their families. The Breaks also explored British subcultures such as chavs, lads and mods through Colin and Ray’s interactions with these groups.

Despite being a show that brought focus on the issue of NEETs in the UK, it was cancelled by Channel 4 executives for being too comedic on something as serious as unemployed college graduates. However, many NEETs loved Them’s the Breaks for being an affectionate yet sincere look into their lives.

4. Being Fred (1997-9)​


Basically this from the same guy but made in the ‘90s and in the Midlands.

Created by comedian Craig Cash[11], Being Fred is about the titular Fred (played by Cash himself) and Pat Kyman (played by David Earl), two lads who run a pub in the Midlands with plenty of hijinks from both them and their customers. The show focused on the various aspects of pub culture in the UK and incorporated a lot of regional humour to make it stand out from other Britcoms. Given it’s Midlands setting, the characters hailed from the working city of Birmingham, which had a thriving pub scene making it the perfect setting for the show. But it wasn’t just all pub antics, Being Fred focused on the personal lives of Fred and Pat when they’re not running the pub such as barmaid Tonja having a difficult divorce from her husband and Janice’s struggling with being a single mother since Pat is reluctant to raise her newborn child.

As with many of the Britcoms on the list, Being Fred lasted for only three series but it has gained a cult following from pub aficionados for its humour and characters.

3. Vincent (1995-7)​


Somewhat like a 90’s version of this but with a Scottish twist.

A darkly comedic yet affectionate look into the goth subculture from Adrian Edmonson, Channel 4’s Vincent is about the titular character (played by Freddie Starr) with the not-so-subtle surname of Van Dark. Vincent is a goth who lives with his family (played by Dawn French, Hugh Laurie, and Sheila Reid) in the Scottish Highlands and has misadventures around the village of Barkloch Bay.

Much of the show’s humour is derived from Vincent’s attempts to fit in with British (and Scottish) society but he struggles to do so given that most see him as a weirdo. But it wasn’t all just “haha this guy is a goth that can’t fit in” it also focused on Starr trying to bring meals to the table for his family and it was the source of many heartfelt moments on the show.

Vincent lasted for three series on C4 but like the other shows on the list, it’s fondly remembered by people from the periphery demographic that it appealed to.

2. Classy (1998)​


Imagine this but set in Britain.

In 1980, a little show known as It’s a Living aired on the American network ABC, about the lives of waitresses in a ritzy restaurant known as Above the Top located at the top of the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. It aired for two seasons from October 30, 1980 until June 11, 1982. Despite its untimely cancellation, ABC would greenlight new episodes airing for first-run syndication between 1985-1989 under the new name Making a Living. Although the show wasn’t quite a big hit like other American sitcoms, it still had a loyal fanbase and good ratings enough to revive for more seasons. Because of it’s surprise success, the BBC sought to remake It’s a Living for a British audience even going so far as to commission a failed pilot in 1990 by Jonathan Lynn to capitalise on the trend of remakes of classic American shows. Despite this, The Liver Birds creator Carla Lane would take a crack at making another British version of It’s a Living but with a feminist, left-wing twist.

Much like the failed 1990 pilot, the British version of It’s a Living or Classy as it was known kept the setting of London’s Savoy Hotel and the cast but infused it with a lot of social commentary with Jane Grayfield (Nerys Hughes), Dorothy O’Malley (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Nancy Marwari (Sarita Choundhury), the show’s versions of Jan Gray, Dorothy Higgins and Nancy Miller respectively. Classy dealt with sexism and sexual harassment from some of the trio’s clients with Sonny Jameson as more or less the show’s designated bad guy. There were also episodes that focused on a pedophilic children’s entertainer based on Jimmy Savile similar to a House of Cards episode, women holding strikes for better wages and migrant workers.

Yet despite having a big name in Carla Lane, Classy lasted for only one season as it had the misfortune of being overshadowed by far bigger and more successful shows on the BBC. Of all the Britcoms on the list, this is the only one that is a remake of a foreign show and it remains even more obscure to non-Brits than it’s American counterpart making it stand out all the more. Not exactly a cult classic or influential compared to the others on the list though if you like feminist-centered workcoms with a classic British wit then Classy is the right show for you.

1. From Across the Pond (1998-9)​


This, made in the ‘90s and from the opposite perspective

Finally, there comes one that isn’t quite a truly British comedy as the Yanks at HBO co-produced this dramedy about Christian Herin (Joseph Mazzello), an American foreign exchange student to Britain trying to fit in at London’s Westminister School from wearing his uniform to playing football (or soccer as it’s known stateside) and trending pubs, all while falling in love with English local Claire Blackford (Felicity Jones)[12]. Nonetheless, From Across the Pond was still made by the BBC with as many Brits in the cast and crew as there are Americans and you will find the trademark British snark in the show from Peter Flannery of Our Friends in the North no less who infused it with not just humour but drama as well.

The brilliance behind From Across the Pond is how it dealt with the culture clash between local British and foreign exchange students through the experiences of Christian and other foreign nationals being pressured to “fit in” with the rest of British society. From Across the Pond also had episodes focusing on bullying, drug addiction, parental abuse and alcoholism among the more desperate and unfortunate students in Westminster, sometimes even spilling over to Christian and Claire, especially if it was one of their friends. But for every dramatic episode, you would another episode that was comedic and had all the typical romcom elements to balance out the darkness albeit with a slightly more serious slant. Yet despite winning acclaim from critics for it’s writing, acting, dialogue and handling of very serious subject matter in addition to a heavy marketing campaign by the BBC and HBO, the show was largely overlooked by audiences who preferred Oz and The Sopranos and it would be cancelled after it’s first and only series. But like some of the Britcoms on the list, From Across the Pond has developed a cult following among fans on both sides of the Atlantic and overseas with some clamoring for a reboot.

When it comes to overlooked shows, From Across the Pond is definitely one of the more underrated Britcoms given its wonderfully-executed premise, brilliant but subtle acting, and a multicultural cast of characters from different countries.

[1] For those unfamiliar with the term, telly is a British slang word for television.
[2] Misbehaving Men and Gamers are TTL’s Men Behaving Badly and Game On.
[3] Unlike in OTL which only got three series/seasons (likely for budget reasons), it gets two more ITTL (narrated by Joanna Lumley rather then Andrew sachs), but mostly just to appeal to the nostalgia of those who love it, including concept creator @Plateosaurus.
[4] “Series” is the British English equivalent of what we would call a “season” in the States. This will also apply to other words in the article such as “favorite” (favourite) or “Labor” (Labour).
[5] Delayed IOTL but will come out slightly sooner.
[6] In OTL, Edgar Wright created the show Spaced with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it lasted from 1999 to 2001 winning a BAFTA Award for Best Situation Comedy. XtraTime will be slightly more successful than Spaced and win multiple awards.
[7] OTL, Curtis worked on Blackadder and the King’s Birthday where The Cavalier Years incarnation of Edmund Blackadder reads a letter from the Privy Council of King Charles I and refuses their invitation to stage a royal gala in the most colourful way imaginable to put it mildly. TTL, he will continue the Blackadder franchise with three new series.
[8] Ledger will do far bigger things as an actor after Blackadder in the Fifth Form.
[9] Because of first and second-order butterflies, Ted Crilly’s original actor Arthur Matthews portrays him in the stand up sessions as a friar instead of a priest - However, Channel 4 executives force Linehan and Matthews to change him into a priest out of fear that audiences wouldn't what a friar is.
[10] More details later, but a disaster of that size will have a tremendous impact on the UK in every aspect, politics included.
[11] In OTL, Craig Cash created the show Early Doors, which was about his character Joe and Duffy running a pub in the Manchester suburb of Stockport. Cash will come up with this idea much sooner but with a different setting and cast of characters.
[12] Felicity Jones gained some recognition from British audiences for her role as Ethel Hallow in ITV’s The Worst Witch and Weirdsister College, the former coincidentally also aired on HBO. TTL, she is cast as Claire instead and someone else plays Ethel.

This was gonna be Main Thread, but Geekhis didn't have time for it, so its here.
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That's probably a safe bet sadly.

Well, I should point out that, in my head, Blackadder: MI5 is canon. And I'm sure we were going to fix up that entry so it was made canon - because Blackadder: MI5 was a great idea and there was no au fait reason as to why we couldn't fit in.

I think we can retcon something...
In the Cards
A History of House of Cards

Guest post by @AJM888 with assistance from Mr. Harris Syed, @Ogrebear and @Plateosaurus
By Alexander Maynard and Harry Stockton, Pop Culture UK Netsite (September 23, 2018)


Basically this but as a quadrilogy.

During the last few months of the Margaret Thatcher Premiership in 1990 the BBC would air a political drama-thriller, House of Cards starring the late Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, Diane Fletcher as Elizabeth Urquhart, Colin Jeavons as Tim Stamper, and Susanna Harker as Mattie Storin. The show was exceptionally popular and three sequels were made adding Michael Kitchen (The King), Michael Palin (George Reese), David McCallum (Uncle Richie), and many others to the critically-acclaimed four part series.

The first series followed the rise of Francis Urquhart, (whose initials FU were deliberately picked by author of the books Michael Dobbs) the Conservative Party’s Chief Whip, who after being passed over for a senior cabinet position embarks on on a path of political backstabbing, manipulation, and murder to his rise to the highest office in the UK as Prime Minister. Dobbs was politically active as a speech writer for the Conservatives and an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and later the Conservative Party Chief of Staff gaining the nickname “The Baby Faced Hitman” from the press. Dobbs fell out with Thatcher a week before the 1987 General Election and quit. During his time away from politics Dobbs would write House of Cards in 1989 “by accident, I wasn’t planning it” Dobbs has said. The novel was very popular leading to the TV show. Though he returned to politics during the Conservative time in opposition in 90’s Britain. Dobbs would pen three more sequels telling FU’s journey: To Play the King (1993), A Game of State (1994), and The Final Cut (1996)[1], all of which were adapted for the BBC by the same team as House of Cards. The first series more or less faithfully adapted the novel apart from some minor changes due to not being able to use the Daily Telegraph, instead using the fictional Clarion newspaper chain owned by Ben Landless (played by Kenny Ireland). Urquhart’s wife Elizabeth is more actively involved in his plotting, and in the series Urquhart talks to the audience in a Richard III manner breaking the fourth wall to great effect.

House of Cards is set after PM Thatcher decides to resign from the Premiership and the leadership of the Conservative Party; the Tories then elect Henry Collingridge (played by David Lyon) as their new leader who then wins a subsequent General Election. After being turned down for a top job Urquhart enacts his revenge against Collingridge and others in his way by creating a scandal targeting the PM’s brother; taking down the party chairman; making the PM look weak; suggesting to Landless that they “dump Collingridge as PM; and encouraging the Cabinet to go against Collingridge. Along the way Urquhart is helped by Mattie Storin, a young reporter for the Clarion whom Urquhart takes as his lover. Urquhart is helped enthusiastically by his Deputy Whip Tim Stamper and reluctantly by Roger O’Neill (played by Miles Anderson), the party’s public relations consultant with a cocaine problem.

Eventually a politically wounded Collingridge announces his plan to resign as PM and this opens up a leadership election. Uruhart fights very dirty with the cabinet to become the next Prime Minister with Landless’s backing he begins to climb in the party polls. Through blackmail of his various other members of the cabinet or manipulation of events, Urquahart eliminates all his political rivals for the leadership and becomes Party Leader.

Urquhart has some loose ends; he kills Roger O’Neill with poisoned cocaine so it looks like an OD. Meanwhile Mattie is putting things together regarding the plots and blackmail, and also figures out Urquhart killed O’Neill. Confronting Urquhart on the roof of the Palace of Westminster Mattie asks if he killed O’Neill. Urquhart confesses to her then he picks her up and drops her off the roof of Parliament. Cut to Urquhart on the way to Buckingham Palace where the Queen will ask him to form a government and he explains to the audience why he had to do it. We end the first series as he enters the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Before the credits roll however, we see a hand pick up Mattie’s running tape recorder from her body.

The second series, To Play the King, would skip several years later at an unnamed point in the future (the Atlanta Olympics are mentioned) and the first episode begins with Urquhart at the funeral of the Queen showing him very shaken by events. The PM then meets with the new King. Both men are very different and butt heads immediately, both have differing views of the way Britain should go considering FU is struggling with the rise in homelessness in the UK, a bad economy, his party split on staying in the European Union, and a rise in IRA terrorism in Northern Ireland as well as on the mainland. The King’s quiet support of the Labour opposition infuriates Urquhart as he will tell his wife Elizabeth “the King must be dealt with.”

Urquhart recruits the help of ‘Uncle Richie’ a character clearly based on Jimmy Savile[2], the well known UK children’s show host and exposed pedophile, to dig up dirt on The Lady (a pastiche of Princess Diana and played by Lysette Anthony) leading to a scandal for the King and a messy divorce. Once the deed was done Urquhart quietly exposes Uncle Richie’s ‘activities’ and the man 'commits suicide’ (FU’s bodyguard Cordor is seen walking away from his house wiping his bloody hands) rather than face justice (or expose Urquhart).

The Urquhart Premiership calls for a snap election and the King reluctantly approves. Despite Urquhart’s efforts to make the King look like a fool several schemes fail like an “abuduction” by “terrorists” that results in the SAS accidentally wounding the King. The General Election is closing in and the polls and the media says that it is too close to call. The Leader of the Opposition and Labour Party, George Reese attacks Urquhart’s government for its lack of policies to combat the rising rates of homelessness and joblessness among the working class. Urquhart states he plans to bring back National Service to lower both problems. A few days before the General Election, Urquhart discovers Tim Stamper and Sarah Harding have copies of the tape from the recorder in Mattie Storin’s pocket when Francis threw her off the roof of Parliament. He has Corder kill them both in an IRA styled attack. Urquhart fails to get information good enough to force the King to abdicate when Ben Landless dies “from a heart attack” while swimming near his yacht”[3] which was actually Cordor murdering him after failing to stop Landless destroying the evidence of a tell all memoir by Princess Charlotte (based on Fergie and played by Moira Booker).

Urquhart wins the General Election but it is still a narrow majority. He meets with the King to confirm him as PM but during their fracious confrontation the IRA sets off a massive bomb in the City of London. Rushing back to No. 10 Urquhart tells the audience he realizes that his false bombings had police looking after a false trail but that is “the price”. Francis realizes he will have a rocky relationship with the King. Francis has won but he is wounded out of the gate of his election win.

Third in the four part series was A Game of State which covered the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. and the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Urquhart may have survived the snap election but isn’t exactly on good terms with His Majesty or the Labour Party-led Opposition over the issues of homelessness, unemployment and IRA attacks. Complicating things are problems in Asia with the Japanese economic crisis and the new American President Joseph “Joe” Martindale (based on Al Gore and played by Jeff Bridges).

The series starts with Urquhart and the outgoing President George Burke (based on George H.W. Bush and played by Mason Adams) meeting at Chequers near Christmas with Burke telling Francis that the Americans are worried about a leak in the British government as the Hong Kong handover comes closer. “I know the CIA Francis, they think you're weak right now.” Burke also tells Urquhart that the new president will visit soon.

As Urquhart explains to the audience he had a good relationship with President Burke and had hoped another Republican would replace Burke however, Vice President Harry Kemper (a pastiche of Jack Francis Kemp and played by Stephen Tobolowsky) was an idiot, “A moderate fool that had been hit too many times in the head playing pretend rugby.” Urquhart finds President Martindale an annoying do-gooder interventionist who served in the Vietnam War and the son of a former governor of Florida (based on Gore’s political past).

Urquhart meets with President Martindale in the spring and the meeting is polite but neither man is too happy to be close to one another except for the cameras. The President is invited to a private audience with the King and later Labour leaders which enrages Urquhart and he wants to find a way to hurt the young President. He finds the President is heavily tied to Horizons, a large American entertainment conglomerate based on Disney[4] and several large technology companies (Atari and others). Urquhart hatches a plan and finds a partner from Japan: Prime Minister Takashi Morita (played by Tetsuro Tamba). Morita needs help stabilizing his nation’s economy and is worried that most Americans still hold grudges from when Japan had a strong economy and owned a number of big and small businesses. Morita has to walk a fine line as his predecessor was voted out of office when he allowed American rice to be sold in Japan[5]. Morita offers Britain a means of leverage over the US Treasury bills- this is the American debt that Japanese banks bought. While Morita will not give Urquhart all the Treasury bills he will give him a fourth of what Japan has and in exchange his government will back Japanese buyouts of British firms. Urquhart accepts Morita’s offer and Japanese corporations are allowed to buy British businesses. President Martindale is furious at the leverage this gives Urquhart in American economic policy.

While this personal victory is great it is short lived as the IRA begin a huge new campaign of terror against the British, successfully attacking the King during the State Opening of Parliament sending him and many MP’s and Lords to hospital. With Parliament and Big Ben severely damaged by rocket attacks, and the King in hospital, the United Kingdom is in lockdown as the police are looking for suspected IRA members hidden in plain sight Most IRA members are found and arrested but their leader remains at large. Urquhart tries to use the attack to pass a new security bill but it fails to pass as even members of his own party think the bill goes too far politically.

As the Hong Kong handover gets closer a crisis in China erupts as the old Paramount Leader Xu Lichang (played by Kim Chan) suddenly dies and the new President Shao Guo (played by Bill Tung) is beset by several crises that he cannot handle; a major earthquake; a dam failure that kills thousands; a failed rice harvest; and political unrest. At the G8, President Martindale suggests to Urquhart he should send the King’s son the “Young Prince” (inspired by Prince William and played by Russell Tovey) and his ex-wife The Lady. Francis politely refuses knowing the American President is close to both the King and his ex-wife. Martindale is caught by Cordor wondering if the Hong Kong event should be postponed which inspires Urquhart.

As chaos in China threatens the handover Urquhart tries to go in as a peacemaker. Making a deal with Shao Guo for Britain to extend the lease on Hong Kong for another 50 years in exchange for heavy British investment into the territory and China and ignoring the country's Human rights record. President Shao Guo is interested and a deal is agreed. Urquhart sends the King’s younger brother “the Prince Fool” (based on Prince Andrew and played by Hugh Bonneville) to Hong Kong in the place of the hospitalised King to sign the deal. However the Americans trump the British retention of Hong Kong with a huge deal for land reclamation for a theme park built by Horizons, some of the bill for which will now end up being picked up by Britain. Despite the pomp and circumstance in Hong Kong, Francis is furious.

Urquhart finds that the IRA leader orchestrating the attacks is hiding in America at the Martha’s Vineyard residence of Senator Gary Kilcannon (played by Mike Farrell), an Irish-American Senator from Massachusetts, Democratic Leader of the Senate, Ally of President Martindale and brother of 1970’s House Speaker Henry Kilcannon, both of whom were inspired by John and Robert F. Kennedy respectively (though the Kennedys are mentioned by name when Urquhart calls the Kilcannons “the next Kennedys”).. The IRA leader (played by an uncredited Liam Nesson) along with the Senator Kilcannon die tragically when a cargo plane full of fuel crashes onto the property. The death of an ally, and his suddenly exposed links to the IRA massively hurts President Martindale as midterms loom “such a shame the polling is so bad” FU says to the audience.

The death of the IRA leader sees Urquhart get a massive poltical recovery with the British public who also very much like his Hong Kong policy. Labour are suddenly riddled with scandal as their leader suffers exposure of his financial dealing. Corder is also able to track the Chinese leak in the British government which is his own deputy Gordon Light, Stamper's old lover. Corder has the man “commit suicide”. At the end of the series FU seems on top of the world.

The fourth and final series, The Final Cut, would be about the end of an era for Francis Urquhart as he was not only getting older but was dealing with the passing of his political idol, Margaret Thatcher (an event that would actually occur decades later). The funeral is attended by the King, crippled and in a wheelchair since the last series, and the “Young Prince” (inspired by Prince William). In a monologue to the audience Urquhart confesses he is trying to hold the office longer than Thatcher’s 4,349 days. He wants to erase the woman from the public memory. Sadly he has to deal with an effort to have a statue of her erected near the House of Commons. New characters in this series are Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Tom Makepeace (played by Paul Freeman), Geoffrey Booza-Pitt, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and later Foreign Secretary, (played by Nikolas Grace) and his new Parliamentary Secretary, Claire Carlsen (played by Isla Blair).

Urquhart is haunted by the people he killed, Roger, Mattie, Stamper, Senator Kilcannon and even the IRA leader, and the words of President Burke. “The past always comes back to haunt you Francis” Francis is also tired, being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for over eleven years wears a man down. After the funeral we see Urquhart putting down his bird dog saying, “better a quick exit, than clinging to the wreckage of a lost career” he tells the audience he hopes someone did that to him in the end.

Urquhart wants to be remembered, he wants to leave a bigger mark on world history as his legacy, and decides to go after a peace treaty in Cyprus. Francis has personal ties with Cyprus as he served there in the 1950’s as a young 19 year old officer in the British Army, He is also trying to set up the peace deal so it favors a major political supporter so that oil deposits are on the Turkish side of divided territory. Urquhart and Makepeace clash on the Cyprus plan, and things start to come to a head with Urquhart and Makepeace after Urquhart is injured when his car is rammed by drunken louts on a motorway. Corder and one of his men kill three of the louts claiming they were trying to kill Urquhart. While Urquhart is injured Makepeace holds cabinet meetings far too eagerly for Urquhart’s liking.

Urquhart is trying to make sure certain documents from his service in Cyprus don’t see the light of day. These papers state Urquhart killed two of the EOKA guerillas while trying to get information but they didn’t know anything. Unbeknownst to Francis, the younger brother of the two killed guerillas witnessed the killing and has moved to London; he recognizes Urquhart as the man who killed his brothers. He sends his daughter Maria (who works for the Home Office) to investigate and he considers revenge for his brothers. Maria finds the documents but the name of the soldier is redacted. Maria does ask Urquhart and he tells her that he was not involved in the shooting. Though he admits his involvement to his wife Elizabeth. He finds it harder not to be haunted by his actions.

Meanwhile he appoints Claire Carlsen as his Parliamentary Secretary, he is aware that Carlsen was Makepeace’s lover. Carlsen suggests that Urquhart attacks Makepeace for his pro-Europeanism. Urquhart on the floor of the House of Commons says that Britain shouldn’t adopt a European currency but that Europe should have English as its official language. Makepeace is furious and when Urquhart seeks to appoint him to a lower position he resigns becoming the Prime Minister’s main adversary, and makes a bid for Leadership of the Conservative Party.

When Carlsen gets access to the secret information regarding Urquhart’s activity in Cyprus, Corder takes it from her. Makepeace gets an ally in the form of the King who still holds his grudge against Urquhart. As the fight for party leadership and Premiership continues, it becomes clear that Makepeace is gaining ground within the rank-and-file and some key figures. Urquhart needs something, some sort of small war and he realizes he had the answer all along. He covertly reveals that oil deposits for Cyprus were given to Turkish interests instead of Greek Cypriots, this causes mass outrage, protests, and revolt in Cyprus. Urquhart is convinced this will be his Falklands. Despite the efforts of US President Martindale, the situation devolves into full blown civil unrest and Urquhart deploys British troops to Cyprus.

The Cyprus war goes very well as it was as Urquhart puts it “made for TV”[6]. As the conflict continues British diplomats and the Cypriot President are taken hostage by EOKA. Urquhart orders a rescue which is a smashing success. However, when a group of unarmed children block the road used for the extraction a shot from a EOKA terrorist in the woods leads to a televised massacre of children by British soldiers turning the sucess into a PR nightmare. Urquhart is condemned in the House Commons, by the press, and by world leaders. He tries to state he did what was right, but almost all MPs tell him to resign.

Unknown to Urquhart worse is coming as Carlsen has gained the Storin tape (in a plain envelope) and betrays Urquhart, letting Makepeace hear it. Makepeace and Urquhart have a stormy meeting where Makepeace plays the tape to FU and says he will let the Prime Minister have his celebration of Thatcher Day (the day he beats Thatcher’s record in office and the Thatcher Statue is revealed), but after that he will make it public unless Urquhart steps down. A worried Urquhart talks to his wife, but Elizabeth says they have found a “way to be safe”, and it is shown in a cut that Maria’s father has gotten a copy of the report (in another plain envelope) that shows Urquhart killed his brothers and is preparing a gun.

On Thatcher Day, the King reveals Thatcher’s statue on Parliament Square. As the crowd sing God Save the King, Maria’s father approaches the Prime Minister he shoots Urquhart point blank and is in turn killed by a sniper sent by Corder. As he lies dying Elizabeth tells Urquhart “You’re safe now.” As Makepeace is in shock he looks at the camera and says, “It's my turn.” The final episode of the series ends with Tom Makepeace attending the funeral of Francis Urquhart and then driving to Buckingham Palace to become the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Corder is in attendance, who just looks at the camera and nods.

Over the course of its non-consecutive, six year run, House of Cards won universal praise from critics for it’s gripping storylines, Richardson’s performance and insight into post-Thatcher British politics. The show won numerous BAFTA awards in multiple categories particularly acting for Ian Richardson. To this day, the original House of Cards is referenced in British media and academia for it’s main character and memorable episodes. It influenced British politics with Urquhart’s “I could not possibly comment” becoming a popular political phrase in Westminster. The series would be remade in several countries. First came Canada with the CBC’s Graeme Manson’s Hat Trick (2003) starring Donald Sutherland as the acerbic Franklin Undrell, albeit one with more of a satirical black comedy feel ala The Thick of It[7]. In 2005, there was an American remake of the same name by HBO and that was more faithful to the original British version with Bryan Cranston as Frank Underwood[8]. Last but not least, the NHK had a 2010 version of the show titled Sajo no Rokaku which was also faithful to the British original with the ambitious and corrupt Prime Minister Fuminori Uchiyama (played by Ken Watanabe) dealing with the troubles and strife of contemporary Japan. The overseas remakes were successful to varying degrees and overshadowed the original show to most audiences unfamiliar with it or the novels they were based on.

All in all, House of Cards was a renowned British drama that inspired imitators in other countries that tried to copy it’s success, whether they succeeded or not has become a staple debate for many Brits.

[1] If you recall from the posts on Tank Girl and Britcoms, Jimmy Savile is facing trouble for his extensive history of child sexual abuse which means that the UK House of Cards will have an episode centered around a pastiche of the man.
[2] Don’t remember A Game of State? Well, it’s the original-to-TTL third novel of the House of Cards books written by Dobbs due to Britain’s different political climate in the 1990s.
[3] The name Horizons was picked due to the EPCOT attraction and Gore’s closeness to the Walt Disney Company.
[4] Landless’s death didn’t happen in OTL’s series which had the secrets of the Royals instead put out into the press. Instead the show ITTL has Landless die in a manner similar to press baron Robert Maxwell.
[5] In the States, we had Americans smashing Japanese cars which is reflected in Prime Minister Morita discussing the Japanese corporate takeovers of American and British business firms as well as said backlash to these moves especially in the good ol’ US of A. In Japan, they had farmers smashing American tractors. So the political reality is that Japanese farmers have more political power than voters in the city compared to their Western counterparts.
[6] The Gulf War was what many media experts would claim even as far back in the 1990s, a made for TV war that showed little blood and few bodies of Allied soldiers. The Vietnam War made the American military very media conscious. The shots of the successes and the deception involved in the war would lead to the theory in OTL, the First Gulf War didn’t happen. I could see that happening here too.
[7] Will air four seasons all made of eight episodes. Title is a hockey reference, as it refers to the overall plot of Franklin trying to successfully get a third consecutive majority government in Parliament.
[8] As Kevin Spacey was outed as a sexual predator in 1994, the American remake won’t have him on board and Cranston will be cast in the lead role instead, a role that will cement him as a man just as capable of playing villains as he is with heroes much like Walter White in OTL’s Breaking Bad.
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