By Lisa Lambert and Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - On this Valentine's Day, some couples will enter a committed relationship, but it might end up lasting a mere 13 hours.
That's the time it would take to binge-watch the 13 episodes of the second season of "House of Cards," the Emmy Award-winning political thriller from Netflix Inc released on the online streaming service on Friday.
Chicago-based retail manager Rachael Wrenn said that she and husband James did not watch the first season right when it came out, but she found it later on Netflix and turned him onto the show.
"And he just loves that show now," Wrenn said. "And so when we found out it was coming out today, he decided these are our Valentine's plans. And I was definitely on board with it."
Starring Kevin Spacey as the underhanded Congressman Francis Underwood, "House of Cards" last year put a new twist on the binge-watching trend in television because Netflix, in its big push to offer original programming, makes all the season episodes available at once.
Spacey and Robin Wright, who plays his cool-as-ice wife and partner in boundless political ambition, gave very little away about the season in their media presentation. The first episode included a shocking, sudden twist that sparked gasps from an audience at a Los Angeles screening Thursday night, a few hours before the show's release on Netflix.
Within minutes of its release, "House of Cards" ranked among the most-viewed shows on Netflix around the world, spokesman Joris Evers said. The company does not release viewership figures for its shows, much to the dismay of its TV network competitors.
The second season garnered positive reviews early Friday. New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley said, "It's hard not to feel giddy delight at the first sight of those emblematic clouds rolling across the landscape of the nation's capital and plunging the city into a Stygian gloom."
Indeed, Washingtonians seem to be among the show's biggest fans, and the heavy snowfall these days on the East Coast might make for perfect binge-watching weather in the capital.
Paul Hamill, a Briton who is chief operating officer at a Washington think tank, took advantage of working from home amid the snow to start watching at 10:30 in the morning, but he probably will not finish the season in one day.
"It's a shame that I have a Valentine's date tonight - otherwise I would," Hamill said. "The good thing is that my date is watching it too, so we will have something to talk about."
Hamill, who is also a fan of the British version of the show of the same name that inspired the Netflix production, said "House of Cards" and Spacey's menacing character allow people to re-imagine current-day Washington.
"It also shows what D.C. would be like with clever, connected, ruthless as well as amoral politicians," said Hamill. "It's what many would like D.C. to be like, and like to be part of."
In a sign of his cachet in the capital, Spacey will appear on ABC's Sunday morning political show "This Week."
Taylor Silver, who moved to Washington two years ago, told her boyfriend they would celebrate Valentine's Day in a way many in the capital city would consider romantic: picking up takeout from the restaurant Surfside and then binge-watching the show.
The opening credits get Silver, who works for a technology trade company and can see her office in the opening images, as excited as the storylines.
"It's where I live and I love D.C.," she said. "I'm not exactly sure what working on the Hill would be like. This adds some mystery to it."
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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