Amazon’s ‘Alpha House’ piles on Republicans a bit too much in bid to become top political comedy

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, November 20, 2013

Building on the popularity of political TV shows like “Veep” and “House of Cards,” Amazon.com’s Prime members now get to view a new political sitcom: “Alpha House,” starring “Roseanne” actor John Goodman. The catch — the show literally goes out of its way to mock Republicans, so much so that the jokes are no longer funny and, at times, borderline offensive.

“It’s not just because I want to bring to bear my progressive point of view in telling stories about Republicans, it’s just, right now, the best story in town,” creator and screenwriter Garry Trudeau told politicians and reporters gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night after a showing of the show’s first three episodes. “The crisis of identity the party is going through right now … is just a very interesting story to get involved in.”

“Our hope is that they’ll be the four most likeable Republicans in the country,” he added.

“Alpha House” centers around the daily lives and friendships of four Republican U.S. senators living in the same Capitol Hill townhouse. The show is loosely based on the living situation of four Democratic lawmakers, Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.), Rep. George Miller (Calif.), and former Rep. William Delahunt (Mass.), during the last decade.

Despite the party flip-flop, however, none of the politicians in the ‘real’ Capitol Hill townhouse are parodied in “Alpha House.” In fact, according to Durbin, it’s a lot calmer in the house than the show portrayed it to be.

“Violence would involve rats, drugs would involve Metamucil, and the closest thing to sex is pictures of our grandkids,” Durbin, who was in attendance at the premiere, told Roll Call.

Instead, you have a former University of North Carolina basketball coach in the form of Sen. Gill John Biggs (Goodman), whose laziness is tested when his Duke arch nemesis decides to run against him in 2014; a potentially homosexual Mormon from Nevada, Sen. Louis Laffer (portrayed by “Six Feet Under’s” Matt Malloy), who’s being primaried by a member of the tea party next year; Sen. Robert Bettencourt (“The Wire’s” Clark Johnson), a longtime African-American Republican from Pennsylvania facing ethics charges while trumping up his connections to private contractors; and an ambitious, sexed-up Marco Rubio-esque freshman, Sen. Andy Guzman, portrayed by “All My Children’s” Marc Consuelos.

Becuase Consuelos’ character is often seen fornicating with his donor mistress, Trudeau even had to comment about the character and its inspiration that “the main difference being that by all accounts Rubio has a different home life” from Guzman’s.

Other than Rubio, the only character that is loosely based off of a real-life senator is Biggs, who Trudeau modeled after former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. ”Somebody who really didn’t feel like politics should involve the effort that everybody else did and came to Washington with that sense of entitlement,” he said, referring to Thompson’s failed 2008 presidential bid. “Obviously Gil John likes his life here, he just wishes it didn’t involve so much work.”

It’s not just the show’s characters that come off more like caricatures of real-life politicians, however. Trudeau also took several liberties with the senators’ actions. For example, Biggs’ character takes a nap in the shower from 8:00 to 8:20 every morning, while in another scene the men engage in target practice in their basement. They are also eerily afraid to go on a trip to Afghanistan, to the point where Laffer even has special body armor made to “protect” him while abroad.

“Alpha House” also goes too far when it comes to conservatives’ opinions of homosexuality and gay marriage. Focusing specifically on Laffer’s character, the Nevada senator first finds himself involved in an impromptu wrestling match with Stephen Colbert on the latter’s Comedy Central show, then is awarded a phallic-shaped anti-sodomy trophy from a religious right organization — all while trying to prove he’s straight against a hard-hitting tea party challenger.

“On the realism front, we did try to not unnecessarily make things up,” Trudeau said, seemingly to cover his tracks.

While Trudeau kept his lips sealed on what to expect in the show’s final eight episodes this season, he did shed some light on who will be making cameos on the show and the fact that the last episode will contain a funeral. Among those making guest appearances are Durbin, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Actors Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”) and Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”), as well as comedians Bill Murray and Wanda Sykes play bit roles on the show.

If you have some free time, and a membership to Amazon Prime, “Alpha House” is worth the watch — as long as you’re willing to overlook the various liberties that befuddle the show, that is.

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