Last Friday, Amazon started streaming their first original show called ‘Alpha House’. The comedy follows four senators who must live in a house together while navigating the murky world of politics. So how did it do? AllThingsD
reported that it was Amazon’s “number one most-watched show”. Amazon never revealed the ratings so should you watch the show? Check out these reviews.
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times:
Not every element is equally successful — jokes about Twitter and YouTube should probably not be written (or spoken) by anyone over the age of 30, although it’s funny when Goodman substitutes “virile” for “viral” — and there is something a little old-fashioned, too, about Malloy’s character’s apparent self-delusion (a married Mormon, he asserts his straightness, but he knows a Von Furstenberg from a handsaw) and Consuelo’s Latin lover.
But it’s an accomplished piece of work. And it gains heft from a number of impressive cameos, the first of which features Bill Murray, as the senators’ soon-to-be-former roommate, cursing a blue streak, shaving, brushing his teeth and combing his hair — simultaneously — as agents of the Department of Justice arrive to cart him off to prison. (Soon Goodman will be wearing his grease-stained tie to work.) Cynthia Nixon appears as an across-the-aisle colleague, Wanda Sykes as an across-the-aisle next-door neighbour, and Stephen Colbert, as Stephen Colbert, wrestles.
When all four sign up for a Congressional fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, political survival, not public service, is the order of the day.
That’s hardly a fresh observation about Washington, but Mr. Trudeau has a feel for not just political hypocrisy but also character, and this cast manages to bring life and even some charm to these Capitol Hill caricatures.
“Alpha House” is not yet as sharply honed as “Veep,” but it could get there; it certainly has plenty of material to work with.
Another potential glitch may be that all four main characters are Republicans, and with creator Trudeau clearly on the other side of the aisle, conservative-leaning viewers may see Alpha House as just another Democrat/liberal attempt to make fun of them. While that may be true — and recent Republican and Tea Party decisions have created an atmosphere of easy and just ridicule — it might help Alpha House to show Democrats being the butt of the joke as well. That said, the first three episodes of Alpha House certainly don’t paint the four primary characters as stupid, forgoing easy laughs for a more nuanced look at the entire political environment the four senators trying to live in, together.
So, if your heaving, capacity-deprived DVRs are up for it, add another potential winner to the list of shows you’re already watching.
It’s often said that a political party is better served by having a strong, worthy opposition. That’s at least true of political satires. Satire needs to have a point of view, and it’s a strength of Alpha House that Trudeau doesn’t hide his own.
But comfortable superiority is the death of comedy. Good satire — The Colbert Report, say, or Doonesbury at its best — has a strong take without stacking the deck or setting anyone above ridicule. If Trudeau wants to argue, say, that today’s GOP is hypocritical, extreme, or dangerous, that’s fine — that’s satire — but it would be stronger and funnier if it engaged with a non-caricature version of the party.
The talent involved in Alpha House, and Amazon’s commitment to a full 11-episode season, makes me hope it will get there, as Veep did. (Trudeau showed he can do sharp TV satire, in the election sendup Tanner ’88 with Robert Altman, back in the pre-Sopranos days of HBO.) For now, though, it’s on double secret probation.
Like a lot of fledgling programmers, Amazon might turn tail on the hefty investment once it gets its nose bloodied or begins weighing the cost versus the benefits. But in terms of “Alpha House” achieving something that looks like victory, so far, mission accomplished.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.