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Introducing Alpha House

Alpha House

Political Satires Know Funny: Introducing, Alpha House – Words by Ronán Brennan.

Thirty-seconds into the opening episode of Alpha House, the Amazon Studios produced political satire series created by Pulitzer Prize – winner Gary Trudeau, Bill Murray is on my screen and I’m happy. Ten minutes later I’m no longer wondering why a cult icon, renowned for being hard to get a script to would take a cameo role in such a small show; because this is very funny stuff!

Political themed series have become one of the most steadfast resources for original humour in recent years, and this latest chapter doesn’t miss its mark. Alpha House outlines the exploits of four Republican senators, played by John Goodman, Clarke Johnson, Matt Molly and Mark Consuelos, who share the same Washington D.C. house rental as re-election looms.

That old saying about seeing sausages being made is what attracts us to the political fiction. They offer us a window behind the scenes, humanizing what we see on the newsfeed and adding personality. For brilliant drama, we have The West Wing – however within this theme it’s comedy firmly leading the charge.

Go back to the eighties when Yes, Minister earned the BBC numerous BAFTAs with its well placed dry-wit. This vein of show has a strong heritage as modern incarnations continue to draw crowds. Take the NBC mockumentary Parks and Recreation staring Amy Poehler, which has just closed its seventh season. HBOs Veep, created by Armando Iannucci, brings to view the life of an American Vice President and has contended in the last three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. And then there is, The Thick Of It (in my humble opinion the best). Also by Iannucci, Thick Of It spawned four seasons and a motion picture for BBC Two by highlighting the struggles and conflicts between politicians, advisers, and the media. Anchored by political spin-doctor, Malcom Tucker, who administers tirades of colouful abuse upon his subordinates with genius profanity. This clever concoction created mass appeal displaying how politicians just shy of intelligent, talk themselves out of awkward circumstances of their own design.

Alpha House, like The Thick Of It, is somewhat inspired by true events seasoned with the outrageous exaggeration. Though where the British flagship is shot with hand-held cameras to giving a fly-on-the-wall documentary style, Goodman and co provide nonchalant, absurd behavior, in serious settings (think along the lines of, M.A.S.H).

Part of the brilliance of what Trudeau has created is that it appeals to Republicans and Democrats alike. Portraying high-ranking conservatives as halfwits but with smart, situational humour, while avoiding embarrassing slapstick. Gil John Biggs (Goodman), a legendary former basketball coach from North Carolina is a proud perks man happy doing as little as possible, while Robert Bettencourt (Johnson), moonlights as the self proclaimed ‘Love Doctor’, making matches for fun across the aisles of congress. Nevada’s Louis Laffer (Malloy), struggles to appear more masculine as his seat is threatened by the competition of a local rancher, and lothario Andy Guzman (Consuelos), seeks to sleep his way to becoming the first Latino in the White House.

This is American politics making fun of itself while being unavoidably likeable. Alpha House isn’t yet operating at the same level as its counterparts, feeling at times unsure of its own ethos; but take into consideration it is the first original production by Amazon’s team and that its ratings have grown considerably during the second season. Defiantly a candidate to give a shot on those, “I don’t know what to watch”, evenings. After all, when was the last time Bill Murray was wrong?

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