New season of ‘House of Cards’ finally hits Netflix today
TV • Pent-up demand likely to lead to weekend of binge-watching.
Published: February 14, 2014 10:02PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 01:43PM
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This image released by Netflix shows Kevin Spacey, left, and Molly Parker in a scene from "House of Cards." The second season of the popular original series premieres on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 on Netflix. (AP Photo/Netflix, Nathaniel E. Bell)

If you find that the office feels a bit more empty today than your usual Friday or that the number of those who called in sick seems unusually high, it might be because Francis Underwood is back in town.

Netflix has finally launched the second season of its critically acclaimed television show, “House of Cards,” at 1 a.m. this morning, and productivity is likely to take a hit in favor of its deliciously vile political scandal. And you can forget about any housework getting done over the weekend.

Fans of the Washington, D.C. political drama are likely to hunker down under their afghans or quilts and begin an all-day marathon of binge-watching to complete the second season, which lasts 13 episodes. Unlike typical network or cable television series, all 13 episodes of “House of Cards” were uploaded to the subscription video service at once for fans to watch one after the other.

It’s a method of television viewing that has taken hold in the last year thanks to Netflix and its original programming that include “House of Cards” and the cult favorite, “Orange is the New Black,” a prison drama about a woman incarcerated for drug dealing.

But it was “House of Cards” that launched Netflix into the stratosphere of must-see TV and water-cooler conversation with the likes of HBO and AMC (home of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad”).

Since the political drama starring Kevin Spacey debuted in January of 2013, it became the first streaming Internet series to be nominated for the Emmy in a major category (Spacey was nominated for best actor in a drama), and it was the first such series to win a Golden Globe (Robin Wright won best actress in a drama).

The gamble to go into original programming for Netflix, which before was known for only streaming older movies and TV shows, is paying off. The service said it added 3 million worldwide subscribers in the first quarter of 2013, in large part due to the success of “House of Cards.” The company also reported adding another 4 million subscribers the fourth quarter of last year. By the end of the first quarter of this year, Netflix estimates it will add another 3.8 million subscribers for a total of 48 million members, according to the company’s quarterly earnings report.

“It’s been a good year for Netflix,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said about the company success in a letter to shareholders. “People around the world want what we offer: consumer-in-control Internet television.”

“House of Cards” tells the scandalous tale of Rep. Francis Underwood (Spacey) and his equally cunning wife (Wright), both of whom maneuver and backstab their way to the top of the political ladder in D.C. By the end of the first season, Underwood learned that he was in line to become the next vice president of the United States.

Anticipation for the show had grown since the end of the first season, so much so that President Barack Obama has pleaded on Twitter not for fans to spoil the new season for him before he has a chance to watch. And snowed-in fans on the East Coast had pleaded with Netflix to release the new season a day early.

Netflix declined to do so.

vince@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ohmytech