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Odds looking longer for 'House of Cards' to continue

Trying to read the tea leaves on as unpredictable a situation as the one involving “House of Cards” following the firing of Kevin Spacey is a risky business.

Media Rights Capital, the production company that makes the show in Maryland for Netflix, has been thrown for a very expensive loop by the damning allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against the show’s star and the decision by Netflix to have nothing further to do with him.

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But while some have read an email sent to Maryland crew members over the weekend as a hopeful sign for life after Spacey, I think it could just as well mean the opposite.

The words in the email definitely invite hope.

“We continue to work with Netflix with the hope of resuming production soon,” workers were told. “As we continue these discussions, we have determined together that the crew will be paid for an additional two week hiatus - beginning on November 27th and continuing through December 8th.”

Two more weeks of hiatus pay is nice as well.

Media critic David Zurawik talks about the quick demise of the career of actor Kevin Spacey following allegations of trying to have sex with actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was 14-years-old. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

“In addition to the writers, there will be a small contingency of office/accounting staff who will remain in the production office on a continuous basis,” the email continued. “Our hope is that the entire crew will be able to reconvene when production resumes, but we want you to know that we will certainly understand if crew members need to find other work in the interim, which will prevent them from re-joining us. We sincerely appreciate all you have done.”

The message was signed by Pauline Micelli, Media Rights Capital senior vice president for television business and legal affairs

Despite the “when production resumes” line, what I see here is Media Rights still trying to find a concept for a spinoff series or a story line for a continuation of Season 6 of “House of Cards” that Netflix will accept.

The production company is like a gambler at the poker table steadily losing money, but staying in the game hoping the next hand will be the winning one that will recoup everything that has been lost. If the player gets up now from the table in an effort to cut future losses, everything it has already spent and committed on Season 6 is lost.

The reason I think the odds are long on Netflix buying into anything the writers come up with in the next couple of weeks is that brand is everything to the premium streaming service, and thanks to Spacey’s behavior, anything associated with “House of Cards” might already be toxic in the minds of some.

The series was already headed downhill in Season 5. Why would you think Season 6 is going to be better? And if the spinoff is weak, it is going to be savaged in this era of nasty social media. Why would Netflix risk having its image possibly tarnished by this production?

While any kind of spinoff or continuation would be good financially for Media Rights Capital, nothing short of a quality production will be anything but bad for Netflix.

For the sake of Maryland workers and vendors, I hope the production finds a path to continue. But I wouldn’t bet on it when the extension runs out Dec. 8. I would take the sentence in the letter about trying to find “other work” seriously.

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