Good dramatic TV

Are you looking for good television to get you through the summer network-programming slump? Please turn your attention to early ’90s British miniseries House of Cards, a compelling drama about murderous governmental intrigue in post-Thatcher Britain (available on DVD).

The impeccably written and acted series contains a hypnotic star turn by Ian Richardson, who plays Francis Urquhart, a ruthless right-wing party disciplinarian with an extraordinary talent for manipulation. Thanks to his equally cunning wife (Diane Fletcher) and intimate knowledge of his colleagues’ indiscretions, Urquhart sets about the task of trying to get the prime minister to resign and to discredit his rivals so that he can take control of his party’s leadership. Americans of a certain age might recognize Richardson, who died in 2007, from the ubiquitous ‘80s Grey Poupon commercials, but here he shows he was more than just a mustard salesman: It is his perfectly wicked performance (based, he once said, on Richard III) that elevates this into true must-see TV.

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