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Online-only 'Alpha House' in the works

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Emily Yahr
The Washington Post
  • John Goodman will star in "Alpha House," Amazon's latest online endeavor.

    Joel Ryan / Invision

    John Goodman will star in "Alpha House," Amazon's latest online endeavor.

OK, it's been four months, no excuses. You should have finished "House of Cards" by now.
If not, the clock's ticking, because another online-only TV show set in Washington, D.C., is officially on the way.
"Alpha House," a political satire about four Republican senators who live together in a rowhouse on Capitol Hill, has been ordered to series by Amazon Studios, the company announced Wednesday morning.
Thirteen episodes will air this year and early next year.
The studio, a production arm of, performed a nifty experiment about a month ago, posting more than a dozen television pilots -- eight comedies and six children's shows -- to their consumer site.
It called on customers to give feedback about which pilots they would like to see turned into full-fledged shows that would stream online.
Apparently, viewers are fans of middle-aged men living like frat brothers and running the country in their spare time. "Alpha House," created and written by "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau, was one of just two comedy pilots picked up for a full season.
But does the popularity of Netflix's "House of Cards" -- which attempted to defy TV conventions in releasing all its episodes to its streaming site on the same day -- hurt another Washington series on the Internet?
Not at all, says executive producer Jonathan Alter. In fact, the Kevin Spacey drama was a huge benefit to the fledgling "Alpha House."
"It helped introduce people to the idea of watching online television, and especially online television about politics," said Alter, a Washington-based writer for Bloomberg News who spent nearly three decades at Newsweek.
The show, based on a real property in the District of Columbia that has housed a rotation of various Democratic senators for years, has been the brainchild of Trudeau since about 2008.
Inspired by a New York Times story about the house, Trudeau originally wrote the pilot for network television, but things didn't pan out.
Last January, Alter, a close friend of Trudeau's, brought up the idea of resurrecting the abandoned pilot.
Trudeau's response, Alter said, was something along the lines of, "Well, be my guest."
Having Trudeau's name attached to the project certainly helped it stand out, Alter said, along with connections that helped land Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert in small roles in the pilot.
"I do think it helped we got those cameos," Alter said, then paused. "And then it really helped when we got John Goodman."
Goodman plays Gil John Biggs, a brash, unfiltered senator from North Carolina who seems to be the leader of the alpha house.
When he's not making fun of his roommate-colleagues, he's on the phone with his wife, back in his home district, who's telling him to step up his game, because the beloved Duke University basketball coach is planning to run against him in the next election.
Goodman is joined by Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos, who also play Republican senators.
The pilot skewers various aspects of Washington, cracking jokes at the expense of both conservatives and liberals.
In the original article that inspired "Alpha House," housemate Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., was quoted saying that, in theory, everyone wanted to do a TV show about the unusual living situation, but, "then they realize that the story of four middle-aged men, with no sex and violence, is not going to last two weeks."
Hearing that quote, Alter laughed. "We've addressed the question of sex," he said, referring to a scene in the pilot in which the newest senator, played by Consuelos, is shown enthusiastically keeping busy during the all-night filibuster at the Capitol.
"And," Alter added, in case any viewers need more enticement, "there may actually be some violence that's coming, too."

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