HOUSE Of Cards started life as a BBC mini-series back in 1990, and very good it was, too. Ian Richardson played a conniving Tory chief whip called Francis Urquhart, who lied his way to Downing Street in the post-Thatcher era, a trail of deceit and murder left in his wake.
The plot was labyrinthine but at least it was easy to watch, because BBC1 was the top button on everyone’s TV, and most of us had only three other buttons from which to choose.
A generation later, House Of Cards is back on the critics’ must-watch list, but this time the action is transplanted to America, Francis Urquhart has been renamed Frank Underwood and he’s now played by Kevin Spacey. And it’s no longer on TV – or is it?
Actually, it’s on Netflix. Many people will tell you that’s a better alternative to regular telly because you can watch all the episodes at once, rather than having to wait for next week’s instalment, and because you can view on your phone or tablet. All you need is an extra set-top box or “smart stick” plugged in to your big screen TV. There are many available online and on the high street, but I’ve picked the four best options with Netflix in mind.
1. At £79, Amazon’s Kindle Fire TV Box is the most powerful mass-market device currently available. Amazon sees it as a way to sell you programmes from its own Instant Video service but it also has easy and quick access to Netflix as well as the iPlayer, YouTube and some other third-party providers. Like all these devices, it plugs into your TV’s HDMI socket.
2. Google’s £30 Chromecast stick is the simplest and cheapest but least conventional way to watch Netflix on your TV. There’s no remote; instead, you call up an app on your smartphone or go to the Netflix website and “cast” the programme of your choice to your TV.
3. If you have a modern games console hooked up to your TV, no further hardware is necessary. The PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Nintendo Wii all support Netflix via free-to-download apps, which you manipulate with the regular games controller.
4. Smart TVs often have support for Netflix built in, so if you have one, check the manual – but don’t buy one especially, as they’re expensive.
Remember you’ll also need a Netflix subscription. It’s £6 a month or £7 for high definition, with the first month free and no minimum contract.