Alpha House, one of Amazon’s online pilots competing to become a full series, is the story of four Congressmen living together in Washington. John Goodman stars as Gil John Biggs, a senator so comfortable in his position that he no longer feels the need to campaign or put much effort into proving anything to his constituents. His roommates include Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy), whose closeted homosexuality—repeatedly suggested in the show—makes hypocritical his aggressive anti-gay marriage politics; Robert Bettencourt (Clark Johnson), the most down-to-earth of the bunch; and Andy Guzman (Mark Consuelos), a young, promiscuous senator who takes the place of a ‘Bill Murray’ character, and is reminded in the first scene that he is due to appear at the Department of Justice.
All of the main characters are Republicans, and the writers don’t let you forget it. Many of the jabs apply to politicians in general, but the jokes and criticism primarily target the GOP. Although Democrats are likely to get more pleasure out of the humor, Republicans may also find funny the failings of their own party, for it aims more at radicals and current Republican tactics than the party’s core values. In one scene, a Republican senator emphasizes the need to keep troops in Afghanistan, insisting that the United States needs to win the war because “not losing doesn’t work for us. Not losing is a Democrat thing.” The Senator encourages colleagues to go to Afghanistan to rouse the troops, a trip that he is loath to make, and one he wouldn’t make if he didn’t have serious competition for his seat for the first time in years.
Senator Laffer has his own problems with rivals repeatedly highlighting his lack of masculinity. Viewers would almost pity him for all of the jabs at his latent homosexuality if his vehement efforts against gay marriage had not won him the “Say No to Sodomy” award from the Council for Normal Marriage. The homophobic rhetoric in his acceptance speech is too much even for the Council’s supporters. Unfortunately, this plot line is not an enormous exaggeration of the anti-LGBT movement. Biggs suggests that Laffer goes on “The Colbert Report” to prove himself, which makes for a hilarious scene at the end of the pilot.
And then there’s the filibuster: senators singing opera, reading lists of names, and taking up time with inane activities just to stop a vote on an environmental protection bill. It’s funny because it’s too real.
The show doesn’t offer so much of a plot as a premise, but the conflicts brought up in the pilot, such as Biggs’ battle for reelection, have the potential to be developed more. If the show continues, the jokes will need to be executed creatively. There is clearly enough material coming out of Washington to fuel political comedies, and Alpha House has done a good job with the pilot, but to keep chugging along, it will have to do more than simply parody the staunchest conservatives in Congress. Hopefully it can pick up steam with the storylines that have been introduced and maintain a thread of humor throughout as well as the clever bursts of political comedy.
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