SALT LAKE CITY, April 29, 2013—If you ever harbored a suspicion that liberals just aren’t funny, the new Alpha House won’t do much to challenge it.
The Amazon studios show disappoints, so far, because leftist caricatures of Republicans dominate the first episode. Creator Garry Trudeau and Executive Producer Jonathan Alter would rather get their licks in on conservatives than grow their audience.
Alter says it’s easier to make fun of Republicans because they “are in a much more interesting place as a party … Democrats are kind of boring.”
To overcome their boringness, the creators of Alpha House have been reduced to cowardly and unclever lampoonery of the political party that represents half of America.
Many television reviewers will no doubt have plenty to comment on, as the show could very easily become an internet hit. For one, big names on both sides of the camera give it weight.
John Goodman brings most of it. He plays the leading role as South Carolina Republican Senator Gil John Biggs, a Boss Hog style good ole boy on cruise control who doesn’t seem to give a damn about anything except staying in office with the least possible effort.
Goodman is about as good an actor as there is, but his dramatic skill can only elevate a show so weighed down by stale stereotypes as much as Alpha House.
It’s too bad, because while Alpha House is based on a brilliant concept and has the talent to deliver, the pilot betrays the creators’ inability to think outside their ideological cages.
For example, one of the first scenes establishes the dynamic among three of the leading characters and casts Sen. Louis Laffer of Nevada as a closet gay. And a self-hating one at that as he is forced to accept endorsements from powerful anti-gay lobbies that are so cringe-inducing they make reading Texas v. Johnson seem like a children’s bedtime story.
But Alpha House is the story of four Republican senators who share a pad in D.C. told from the eyes of Trudeau and Alter, two giants in media who have made careers of mocking and dismissing, respectively, conservatives.
The other characters add dimension to the world of politics, and serve as a brake to the writers’ runaway bigotry … sort of. Sen. Robert Bettencourt (played by Clark Johnson) from Pennsylvania is the most likeable character, exuding cool. He is black, and it will be interesting if the show’s creative team can bring itself to disparage the only African American of note in Alpha House.
The fourth alpha in the house is Florida’s Andy Guzman, played by Mark Consuelos. Almost as if the writing team dismissed every compunction to avoid the most obvious and hurtful stereotypes, the uber-handsome ersatz Marco Rubio is portrayed as a separated playboy who got to the senate on his good looks and form fitting suits. Without a care in the world, he is the youthful new fraternity pledge, introduced to the audience by copulating in a broom closet of the capitol during an all-night filibuster session.
Alter was quite proud of this particular stereotype of the Latin sex machine. “It’s a comedy,” he noted dryly, as if having sex in the Upper House was never a big deal to anyone.
So Republicans are homophobic, and Hispanic Republicans have nothing to offer but good looks. Everyone else, as if on cue from the DNC, is enslaved to the gun lobby. The effete Laffer will have to fire as many rounds from the biggest guns he can find.
Republicans, you see, don’t really know about guns, or even care for them. They are simply beholden to the NRA and like to appear manly to the electorate.
A genuinely funny part came 23:00 into the 24:00-minute show, when Stephen Colbert graced the end credits with an interview with Louis Laffer. One assumes that Colbert did not follow a script, at least not one written by the Alpha House team.
According to Alter, they have already recorded eight episodes, the first of which is available to watch on Amazon TV: http://studios.amazon.com/projects/17107. Viewer are invited to comment and vote to help decide which shows among many go to full production.
Liberals can get their jollies on watching yet another show make fun of Republicans, the least risky thing to do in Hollywood, or Washington. Hopefully, the creators won’t squander a great opportunity to turn an excellent idea into an excellent show, and will abandon their knee-jerk reaction to drum up has-been jokes about the GOP.
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative.
He also blogs at http://my-public-affairs.blogspot.com/
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