Politico reported yesterday that Alpha House, the Garry Trudeau-created pilot about a group of Congressmen living together in a townhouse in Washington, DC that’s based on a 2007 New York Times story about real-life legislators who are roommates when they’re in the District of Columbia, has become one of the first shows to be picked up by Amazon as part of its attempts to expand into original content development. It doesn’t shock me that Amazon pulled the trigger on Alpha House, which, if nothing else, let the company lock down John Goodman for a show, a move that follows the playbook laid out by Amazon in its splashy signing of Kevin Spacey to star in its remake of the British series House of Cards. But Alpha House was far from the strongest of Amazon’s adult-oriented pilots (it’s also testing shows aimed at children). And even if Amazon isn’t doing a traditional development process like its competitors in broadcast television, it would be wise for the service to consider taking a page from the networks’ playbooks and consider revamping the show a little bit before its full launch. Here are five suggestions for how to make Alpha House shine.
1. Make The House Bipartisan: One of the dullest decisions in the original pilot of Alpha House was to make all members of the house Republicans, and to make them all risible. Goodman’s Gil Joh Biggs, a do-nothing incumbent from a rural district who teaches Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy), an obviously closeted social conservative, to shoot in the basement, and signs them both up for a trip to Afghanistan when they attract Tea Party challengers and need to look tough. Clark Johnson plays Robert Bettencourt, an African-American Congressman who’s mostly in in for the donations from defense contractors—in one scene, he gives Gil John his notes from a filibuster speech so they can both go on the record saying nice things about the same giant corporations. And Mark Consuelos plays andy Guzman, a recently-divorced freshman who’s schtupping the founder of a Super PAC. All in all, it’s nothing we’ve seen before. But if Alpha House can sharpen the characterizations and give us a fresh take on what bipartisanship actually looks like, it could be refreshing and funny.