On Halloween, I wrote about the seeming inability of Netflix to make up their minds in terms of what to do about Kevin Spacey and his leading role in House of Cards. The streaming service is still going back and forth, with reports emerging that the series has been canceled, that it will be canceled after season 6 and other options. When writing about it, I asked what might be seen as a rather naive question. Couldn’t they just kill off his character in a definitive way and salvage the popular franchise?
But if they really wanted to make a statement about not profiting off pederasty, there was surely a workable and at least somewhat less expensive option. Couldn’t they have written the character out of season 6? Yes, they’d have to go back to the drawing board on the plot lines and do some reshooting, but imagine the gasps of surprise when the first episode opened with the funeral of the President. (Spacey is still the President, right? I don’t actually watch the show.) To really drive the point home it could have turned out that Spacey’s character had been revealed to have been involved in a horrible sex scandal and some scored lover took him out.
I received some interesting feedback on that one via both social media and emails. I was, for the most part, informed that I’m rather ignorant of how Hollywood works (true) or the details of the plot of House of Cards (also true). It would, I was assured, be virtually impossible to kill off the character of Frank Underwood. The reasons given ranged from the massive expenses involved in re-shoots and unacceptable delays in production to his critical role in the overall plot, gutting the show of all its interest to viewers.
All of those sounded like valid complaints to me. What do I know? I’m not the Hot Air Hollywood reporter. And then I saw this item from Business Insider and Variety.
‘House of Cards’ producers are talking about killing off Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood
Producers are exploring several options for getting “House of Cards” back on track in the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations against star Kevin Spacey.
One scenario being discussed is to kill off Spacey’s character, the villainous Frank Underwood, and have the show’s sixth and final season concentrate on his equally manipulative wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, according to insiders.
The Netflix series is produced by Media Rights Capital. The producers worry that the allegations against Spacey make moving forward with the actor untenable.
In the comments from Netflix released by BI, they make what sounds like a sympathetic, humanist point. They point out that, “300 cast and crew members are employed by the series and would be put out of work if the sixth season does not move forward. The feeling is that they did nothing wrong and should not be penalized for Spacey’s behavior.”
That certainly sounds all warm and fuzzy, but I’m honestly not buying it. While the statement is, on its face, entirely true, shows get cancelled all the time with large numbers of cast and crew being sent out on the street to look for a new gig. But that’s what happens when your show fails to attract an audience and deliver revenue. Sympathy from the big-wigs is generally in short supply at a time like that.
This is different. The show is a massive success and brings in plenty of subscribers. They don’t want to lose that offering if it can be kept viable without undue embarrassment to the brand. What they’re really trying to do here is save House of Cards, not the crew. And if it takes a reasonable investment to kill off the character and keep the ship afloat, why wouldn’t they?
Now that insiders have claimed that Spacey made the set a “toxic work environment” and multiple sources suggest he was involved in pederasty, keeping Spacey around probably exceeds the embarrassment quotient I mentioned above. Netflix is clearly ready to move on without Kevin Spacey. But can House of Cards survive without Frank Underwood?