House of Cards (BBC-1 1990, Ian Richardson, Susannah Harker)

Drama serial House of Cards was set in the very near future where Conservative MP Francis Urquhart will let nothing or no-one stand in the way of his bid to become party leader.

Deep throat – or cut throat? When a journalist trusts a politician, she only has herself to blame – but then everyone trusts Francis Urquhart.

Ian Richardson is the Machiavellian monster Urquhart, up to his cold-fish eyes in a dirty political pond of back-stabbing, skullduggery and corruption in high places. Susannah Harker plays eager, young journalist Mattie Storin, who’s beginning to get suspicious about her “secret source”.

House of Cards is a compelling black tale of greed and burning ambition, based on a best-selling novel by Michael Dobbs and adapted for television in four parts by the award-winning Andrew Davies. It is also the catalyst and starting point for the hugely successful Netflix series of the same name.

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Two sequels followed – To Play the King and The Final Cut.


Francis Urquhart, Chief Whip (Ian Richardson)…guardian of the Party’s secrets. A good man to have on your side – but don’t turn your back on him.
Henry Collingridge, Prime Minister (David Lyon)… a well-meaning fool…no background and no bottom.
Lord Billsborough, Party Chairman (Nicholas Selby…too old and too familiar, tainted by a thousand shabby deals.
Michael Samuels, Environment Minister (Damien Thomas)…too young and too clever.
Harold Earle, Education Minister (Kenneth Gilbert)…his old ‘school’ reports go back a long way.
Patrick Woolton, Foreign Secretary (Malcolm Tierney)…a bit of a lout, bit of a bully boy – but weak on domestic affairs.
Peter McKenzie, Health Minister (Christopher Owen)…politically scarred, prognosis terminal.
Roger O’Neill, Party Publicity Director (Miles Anderson)…a useful tool with a nose for trouble.
Penny, Roger’s loyal and loving assistant (Alphonsia Emmanuel)…she will do anything to protect him.
Charles Collingridge, the Prime Minister’s brother (James Villiers)…a bit of a liability. Alcohol problem, debts everywhere, and not too sure of his sexual orientation.

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production details
UK / BBC One / 4×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 18 November – 9 December 1990

Writer: Andrew Davies / Novel: Michael Dobbs / Music: Jim Carter / Design: Ken Ledsham / Costume: Rosalind Ebbut / Producer: Ken Riddington / Director: Paul Seed

IAN RICHARDSON as Francis Urquhart
SUSANNAH HARKER as Mattie Storin
DIANE FLETCHER as Elizabeth Urquhart
JAMES WILLIERS as Charles Collingridge
MALCOLM TIERNEY as Patrick Woolton
WILLIAM CHUBB as John Krajewski
KENNY IRELAND as Ben Landless

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.