'House of Cards' returns, '48 Hours' unveils 'The Whole Gritty City'

Posted: February 14, 2014

* HOUSE OF CARDS. Season 2 starts streaming on Netflix today.


SO MAYBE Frank Underwood wouldn't be every woman's Valentine.

But Frank (Kevin Spacey), the scheming, homicidal - and, oh, yeah, adulterous - politician at the very heart of Netflix's conspiratorial "House of Cards," doesn't need to please all of us.

He really only needs to stay on the right side of his equally terrifying wife, Claire (Robin Wright), and as Season 2 arrives today, 13 episodes at once, ready to stream, I'd say the Underwood marriage is rock-solid.

Everyone around them may be to some extent in the dark about what's going on with the Underwoods as he prepares to assume the vice presidency and she fights to clean up a mess left over from last season. But inside the bubble of the townhouse they won't be abandoning for the veep's residence, a certain peace reigns.

For now.

Tiptoeing as carefully as I can around spoilers, I think it's safe to say that we'll get to know a bit more about Claire, and that she and the man she calls Francis will continue to be the most interesting people they know.

Although Molly Parker ("Deadwood") is joining the cast as an up-and-coming congresswoman.

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow are among several cable news-channel talking heads who'll appear (Banfield, disconcertingly, is more than just a face on a screen).

Frank still occasionally breaks the fourth wall - as Ian Richardson did in the British original - and, no, it still doesn't bother me. Your mileage may vary.

I watched the four episodes Netflix made available over a short time, but I hope this year not to be done with the season in a weekend because I don't think binge viewing serves it well.

Frank Underwood may see himself as a man of action, but the odd explosion of violence notwithstanding, "House of Cards" is primarily a character study, one that can begin to feel a little stale after prolonged exposure.

So maybe it's best to treat it like a box of chocolates. A piece (or three) at a time? Still delicious.

A tuneful, 'Gritty City'

From "The Music Man" to "Glee," we know in our arts and our hearts - if not in our actual budgets - that music education matters.

But the point's driven home in Saturday's splendid "48 Hours," "The Whole Gritty City," a documentary by "48 Hours" editor Richard Barber and photojournalist and cinematographer Andre Lambertson. The presentation, hosted by Wynton Marsalis and coinciding with the launch of the city's annual Mardi Gras parade season, looks at young marching-band members in New Orleans and at the directors trying to keep them off the streets and out of trouble, against heartbreakingly long odds.

And, boy, can some of these kids play.

In an inspired move, some of the film's young subjects were lent video cameras and the results both ground the film and contribute to its charm (as well as to its title).

At first glance, "The Whole Gritty City" doesn't seem to have much to do with the current incarnation of "48 Hours," whose true-crime obsession tends to leave me cold. But Barber's interest in New Orleans' music programs grew out of editing a 2007 "48 Hours" broadcast that focused on post-Katrina violence, including the 2006 murder of a successful young jazz drummer named Dinerral Shavers, who was in the process of starting a high-school marching band when he was killed.

The death of Shavers, who had participated in Spike Lee's Hurricane Katrina film, "When the Levees Broke," found its way in to HBO's "Treme" (which also featured some of the young musicians from this film) and its mention early in "The Whole Gritty City" serves as a reminder that there's much more at stake here than the future of Mardi Gras.

Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray