"Alpha House," a new sitcom premiering Friday via Amazon, is the first fruit of the Amazon Studios pilot derby, which this spring gave ordinary citizens with Internet access a chance to rate and comment on a variety of pilots. The retailer-cum-streaming-service has set itself up alongside
Of the eight comedies Amazon offered for inspection (along with six children's shows), "Alpha House" was clearly the most likely to succeed. ("Betas," a Silicon Valley sitcom, will also become a series.) Written by "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau -- also Robert Altman's collaborator on the HBO political comedy "Tanner '88" -- it stars
Still, notwithstanding real-world references (some remarkably current), its points are less about policies than politics, and less about politics than about character. (So it is with "Doonesbury," if you regard the long arc.) Indeed, on one level, it's just "The Odd Couple," doubled, a story of often exasperated mutual support. Trudeau's regard seems more affectionate than not.
Though each of the roomie senators -- also including actors
Big and floppy and perennially fatigued, Goodman (who is especially good here) is a Southern senator and former basketball coach whose only agenda -- his wife's agenda, really, expressed on conference calls from back home -- is to stay a senator. ("Everybody in the state knows my record," he says. "Two undefeated seasons, 11 conference titles, two national championships.") Goodman has the historical star power here, but Johnson, from
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