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Frank Underwood’s Washington tenure is coming to an end.
The final run of House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as ruthless and ambitious beltway couple, will debut its last 13 episodes in 2018. Executive producers Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, who replaced exiting creator Beau Willimon last year, are both expected to return as co-showrunners.
Official word on its conclusion, which has been in the works since the summer, comes at a problematic time for Spacey. The star and executive producer is embroiled in sexual assault scandal, with an actor alleging that Spacey made aggressive advances towards him when he was just 14. Spacey responded, in turn, by apologizing for “inappropriate drunken behavior” and coming out as gay. Neither the apology nor the admission have been met with a positive response. (Netflix released a reaction of its own, saying those at the streamer are “deeply troubled” by the allegations.)
House of Cards has been especially important to the streamer. News that Spacey and director David Fincher were updating the project, an adaptation of a British series and Michael Dobbs novel of the same name, as a beltway drama for the U.S. sparked multiple bids from stateside programmers (including HBO) before finally going to Netflix with a straight-to-series order for two seasons at a price tag then estimated to be around $100 million. That was in 2011, before streaming had become a dominant player in original programming and when filmmakers such as Spacey and Fincher shifting from movies to television was still somewhat surprising. House of Cards premiered in 2013.
The show has seen critical affection wax and wane over the years, but it has remained the de facto flagship at an increasingly diversified Netflix. House of Cards is also a regular favorite at the Emmys, nabbing 46 nominations and six wins to date. (It also boasts a Peabody and two Golden Globes.)
Netflix has changed dramatically around House of Cards, upping its content spend to a flabbergasting $6 billion annually with more than 30 current series. And while the payoff of its unprecedented gamble is still a work-in-progress, it has grown its subscriber base substantially — recently topping 100 million worldwide users.
House of Cards‘ renewal also comes at a time of slightly shifting strategy at Netflix. The company only recently made canceling shows a regular practice, announcing relatively quick ends to pricey dramas The Get Down and Sense8 as well as one-off comedy Girlboss. Still, it’s batting average remains much stronger than those of its traditional TV competitors. Without any public ratings barometer, recent launches Stranger Things, The Crown, 13 Reasons Why, Dear White People and GLOW have been deemed industry successes on cultural impact alone.
Executive produced by Spacey, Fincher, Wright, Dana Brunetti and quite a few other notables, House of Cards is made by Media Rights Capital and Trigger Street Productions.
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