New Deal for “House of Cards”

The Underwoods stand to learn the limits of power as the political thriller returns for a third season Friday.

In the viral "Sesame Street" spoof of "House of Cards," the story of political intrigue is reframed as "The Three Little Pigs," narrated by a power – and pork – hungry lupine villain named Frank Underwolf.

"In this town, you have to know which way the wind is blowing – and right now, it's about to get very windy," says Underwolf, star of "House of Bricks."

Close your eyes and the line could have come straight out of "House of Cards" – and not just because Muppet Frank Underwolf is an eerie aural ringer for Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood.

Now, with the third season of "House of Cards" set to hit Netflix Friday, it's clear that Sesame Street isn't all that far from Pennsylvania Avenue.

After blowing into the White House on an ill wind spawned by ruthless schemes and murder, newly minted First Couple Frank and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) might just learn something this season about the limits of presidential power.

Some say that power corrupts, while others believe it reveals character. "House of Cards" focuses on how the pursuit of power does both. In the show's first two seasons, the Underwoods cut a serpentine path to the presidency, littered with bodies, dead and otherwise. That dynamic appears bound to change this season, with plenty of other Frank Underwolfs lurking, ready to try to blow that White House down.

"Sesame Street," in keeping with a formula that’s worked wonders for more than 45 years, used "House of Bricks" to entertain adults and teach the kiddies a lesson – in this case, about counting to three and about subtraction. In "House of Cards," the math only goes up to two for the Underwoods (except, of course, one night last season when an amorous Secret Service agent made for an odd No. 3). Lessons – at least positive one – are rarely learned in the Underwood underworld.

The Underwoods may have finally landed in the White House, but the “Sesame Street” parody marks a perhaps a more meaningful arrival: a permanent spot in the popular culture. "House of Bricks" is an appropriate addition to the cannon of the folks who brought us "Monsterpiece Theater.”

"House of Cards" ultimately is a twisted fairly tale – the type that rarely ends after happily ever after. An ill wind, in Mother Goose and in politics, tends to eventually blows back. 

Check out the meeting of PBS and Netflix as "House of Cards" deals fans a new season worthy of binge-watching.

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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