As I have The West Wing (Now TV) on perpetual loop – it being The Greatest TV Programme Of All Time – I suppose it was inevitable that fictional US election cycles would synch and President Jed Bartlett would be campaigning for re-election at the same time as President Frank Underwood ( House Of Cards , Netflix).
Despite dwelling at either end of the sweet-sour spectrum, both Presidents currently have trouble with their frosty First Ladies.
Mrs Bartlett is more than a little put out that Jed has gone against his word and opted to run a second term despite his multiple sclerosis and his, y’know, giant fraud against the American people.
Yet Abby Bartlett’s marital chill is as nothing to the froideur of Elizabeth Underwood (Robin Wright) who possesses a look that doesn’t so much kill – for that suggests a degree of emotional engagement – as shrivel a man to the state of a forgotten carrot behind the fridge.
President Underwood’s brinkmanship with President Viktor Petrov of Russia is a cheery cavalcade of bromantic bantz compared to the Cold War in the White House bedroom.
House scribe Beau Willimon, in his last season as show runner, has shed most of the sly black humour that made the UK and US versions so deliciously evil. This in itself is disconcerting.
Embattled maritally, diplomatically and electorally, President Underwood (Kevin Spacey) appears more vulnerable, even bricking himself up behind the Fourth Wall for the season opener. No time for stage whispers to us, his happy co-conspirators.
So let’s hope there’s more Shakespearean audacity in the plotting to come – similar to his very public destruction of his wife’s political ambitions during a set piece speech to Congress.
Her smile from the gallery was layered over the poison like a rainbow on an oil spill.
State of the Union? Not good, to be honest.