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Friday, April 26, 2013

Alpha House

Article first published as Alpha House on TheTVKing.

From the mind of Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau comes a new political comedy "Pilot" currently available through Amazon, Alpha House. Alpha House is about a bunch of Republican Senators who share an abode in the Capital during the week, and then return to their wives and children in their home state on the weekends. Together, the men deal with the rigors and ridiculousness of politics in Washington D.C.

The story opens with one of their own, Vernon Smits (Bill Murray, Moonrise Kingdom), getting arrested, but totally unprepared for it because his scheduler screwed up. It's a funny scene, but Murray has to play it so quickly and over the top that what makes him the infamous Bill Murray gets lost in the moment. I really hope this is a character that returns so we can see what type of Senator Bill Murray can create.

With Smits out, the other three, Gil John Biggs (John Goodman, Argo), Robert Bettencourt (Clark Johnson, Homicide: Life on the Street), and Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy, The Bounty Hunter) look for a new roomie. They find one in young, upstart, arrogant Andy Guzman (Mark Consuelos, All My Children), who not only brings his floozy to bang in his first visit to the house, but who skips past seniority to claim a nice bedroom.

This is the makings of lots of conflict and chaos, which should be quite entertaining. Alpha House avoids pigeon-holing or flat characters, so I can't say "Gil is the ____ one" or anything, which means the ways in which this unfolds should actually be unpredictable and exciting. These are real-seeming men, who have a variety of motivations and needs going on at all times, and Alpha House won't be a typical screwball comedy. From shooting guns in the basement to reusing speeches on the Hill, the scenes are funny, but believably so.

The series is smart. There is a lot of political commentary right in the "Pilot." Everything from secret gay Republicans promoting family values to Tea Party primary threats to an old-fashioned talking filibuster is brought up. Alpha House will clearly be a vehicle to point out some of the pitfalls of Washington in an amusing way, and yet, the likely viewer will already know about these elements, and so it will reinforce their thinking, rather than opening eyes.

Trudeau is not a conservative, and while that doesn't openly shine through in Alpha House, with likeable, if flawed, characters, there is likely to be an undertone of judgment against the party the show presents. For this reason, people who would vote for a Gil type will likely not enjoy it. It doesn't stray fall enough away from reality to be a hatchet job, but by gleefully pointing out the cracks in the system and the party, it will turn off a large segment of viewership, even if many of the goofs could be applied to either side, and these guys just happen to be GOP.

That being said, I really hope it gets made. Trudeau has found a very nice balance, aided by a stellar cast, between mocking and telling an intriguing story. I like the way he has set things up, and there is a lot of material here to mine. The stripped-from-the-headlines element will give it the ability to say something about modern politics, and maybe, if it's very lucky, provide a little push towards change.

Alpha House's "Pilot" is available now on Amazon.

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