Ria's preferred TV and movie genres are sci-fi and political thrillers. She looks for smart, relatable characters above all else.
Between House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix managed to set a high bar for online television. House of Cards had its moments of controversy; in addition to killing off fan-favorite characters, the show saw lead actor Kevin Spacey leave prematurely due to allegations of sexual harassment. The show's ending in November 2018 was also flawed, at best.
Fortunately, there are many other shows both on and off Netflix with a blend of power-hungry characters, political intrigue, well-acted drama, and some complicated romance to keep everyone's loyalties shifting.
Scandal is absolutely a must-watch show for House of Cards fans. It's a little less ruthless, but the political intrigue and drama at its core is stunningly well-written and exciting. The seven-season series was nominated for a slew of Emmy and SAG awards, with lead actress Kerry Washington quickly becoming a fan and critic favorite.
The series has the usual assassination attempts, affairs, sabotage, and other political thriller tropes, but also has some truly intense and original twists. Every single supporting cast member becomes memorable for something - and sometimes it's something evil, yet relatable. Still, the show ends up feeling less sleazy than House of Cards, perhaps because of how the main characters still have some semblance of morals.
The West Wing
The West Wing has much less murder and mayhem than House of Cards, which makes it an excellent palate-cleanser and a refreshing watch in the current political climate. Aaron Sorkin's classic show still doesn't shy away from controversial issues and occasional violence, but all of the characters remain relatable and even lovable.
The seven-season show has its ups and downs, and many fan-favorite characters eventually depart. The writing is consistently strong, though, and the one-liners and snide remarks have remained legendary among fans. Bonus: It's a relatively clean series that pre-teens and up can enjoy, though they might get bored unless they're really interested in politics.
If House of Cards didn't have enough murder and mayhem for you, then maybe give Dexter a try! While Dexter lacks the political intrigue that House of Cards has, the eponymous main character has the same moral ambiguity, though arguably with a little more charm and good intentions. He's a forensic investigator who solves crimes, but also murders criminals, and most of the series revolves around him trying to hide his secrets from his colleagues.
Dexter has eight seasons and millions of fans; its popularity speaks for itself. Obviously it's a lot bloodier than House of Cards, but it's also far funnier at points.
Homeland tells the saga of Claire Danes, a CIA officer whose duties take her across the world as she attempts to track down and thwart terrorists. Her first mark is Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine who was held captive by al-Qaeda, as she believes that he has turned against his country. The tension and suspense is expertly crafted, and while Claire isn't as complex as either of House of Cards lead character, she's certainly more likable.
An eighth and final season will be airing in 2019, meaning that unlike many good TV shows, Homeland will actually get a proper ending! Considering the number of TV series cancelled prematurely in 2018, Homeland is worth celebrating.
The Americans is a spy drama that transcends the traditional boundaries of the genre. The focus on family and everyday life being overshadowed by danger is compelling, and the main couple remain relatable even as they grit their teeth and carry out their duties. Even the Russian characters who manage the spy couple are well-written and convincing - which makes sense, considering the series' creator is a former CIA officer.
The series finale won two Primetime Emmy Awards, which were well-deserved, considering how well the show managed to wrap up its six-season run. If nothing else, The Americans will probably leave a better taste in your mouth than House of Cards.
This ABC series was unfortunately short-lived; it was cancelled after just three seasons, leaving many loose ends in its wake. Still, the three seasons that exist are good, engaging television. The first season is confusing, since it switches between the past and present with little warning or explanation, but everything becomes properly explained in time.
Alex Parrish is a fantastic protagonist and a true breath of fresh air after House of Cards' well-written but morally bankrupt main characters. Unfortunately, the action sometimes overshadows the characters and their drama, but Quantico still has a lot to offer.
Mad Men may be a fairly typical period drama on the surface, but it's absolutely riveting. (Who knew that a show about an advertising agency could be so good?) Blackmail, affairs, internal politics, and shady business deals shape the lives of the core cast - for better and for worse. Mad Men also features convincing and likable female characters, some of whom refuse to put up with the selfishness and bad behavior of the male leads. It's a depressing series at times, but nowhere near as cynical as House of Cards.
The Good Wife
Like Scandal, The Good Wife focuses on infidelity, lawyers, and political drama. It has significantly less murder, though, which is good news for viewers who like their dramas to be a little less grisly. It's also noticeably less political, though various characters' political ambitions do make an appearance.
With 156 episodes, The Good Wife takes its time exploring the characters and their respective subplots, but never feels too slow. It helps that the characters are memorable, and their secrets and ambitions keep viewers on their toes. By the time it finished, The Good Wife had claimed multiple Emmy Awards and won over millions of fans.
Whereas House of Cards has a morally bankrupt man ascending to the Presidency through his own treachery, Designated Survivor stars a humble man who ascends to the Presidency unwillingly - and through tragic circumstances. Though main character Tom Kirkman is compelling, the truly riveting parts of the show revolve around the terrorist bombing that took out the prior President and his entire cabinet. The unsolved mysteries take their toll on the characters, creating some memorable drama.
Though Designated Survivor was initially cancelled by ABC after only two seasons, Netflix brought it back for a ten-episode third season set to premiere in 2019.
Don't worry, this isn't a recommendation for the terrible Netflix live-action version. The original version of Death Note is a classic example of an anime that's a great show even if you don't normally watch anime. The supernatural elements are minimal, and the focus on a hero with dubious morals means it'll be familiar - but still new - territory for House of Cards fans.
Plus, at a slim 37 episodes, Death Note delivers its punches in a timely manner. If you don't end up liking it, at least you didn't waste too much time.
sam on August 14, 2020:
Liz Westwood from UK on January 09, 2019:
This is a useful and very interesting guide to the best available alternatives. Thanks for putting it together.