Amazon’s new original program, “Alpha House,” is a quick-witted comedy about the trials and tribulations of four fictional Republican senators who share a D.C. townhouse.
Though Mark Consuelos, one of its stars, reassured that the show would be an ‘equal opportunity’ offender, that has not turned out to be the case. Five episodes in, the show has exclusively thrown jabs at conservatives — and absolutely none at liberals.
“Alpha House’”s main characters are:
Senator Gil John Biggs (R-NC): a mainstream, long-serving senator who was formerly a legendary coach at UNC. He faces a primary challenge from a Tea Partier Duke coach. Played by John Goodman.
Senator Robert Bettencourt (R-PA): an African-American senator, Bettencourt faces re-election and a looming ethics violations probe. Played by Clark Johnson.
Senator Louis Laffer (R-NV): a soft-spoken Mormon, Laffer is apparently ‘in the closet’ and struggling with his public image. He faces a primary challenge from a John-Wayne-type Tea Partier. Played by Matt Malloy.
Senator Andy Guzman (R-FL): a Cuban-American freshman senator from Miami, Guzman is ambitious, smooth-talking, and a hopeless womanizer. Played by Mark Consuelos.
Allow me to walk you through some of the jabs taken at Republicans, in order of appearance (including all five episodes aired to date). Spoilers ahead.
a) Laffer is presented with an award by the “The Council for Normal Marriage.” Yes, that’s the organization’s name. The award? The 2012, “Say No To Sodomy Award.” Seriously. The other ‘joke’ is, of course, that Laffer is fighting his apparent homosexuality while outwardly trumpeting socially conservative values. Isn’t the closeted social conservative joke a bit stale and trite?
b) During a Republican filibuster against a ‘clean energy’ act, there is an elderly Republican senator speaking on the floor, who says:
Mr. President, the American people know junk science when they see it. A few polar bears who can’t hack the swim back to their ice packs does not constitute proof that man-made C02 causes global warming! That’s just natural selection in action! Do you think every one of God’s creations made it onto the Arc? Hell no! … What we need is good jobs and that comes from fossil fuels!
The result here is to mock conservative skepticism of man-made climate change by using extreme, ridiculous points that no conservative has ever used.
c) During the same filibuster, Bettencourt’s speech opens by praising, by name, several private contractors (who are his biggest donors), because, of course, those Republicans are all bought off by big business.
d) The Tea Party candidate challenging Laffer has a laughably over-the-top commercial where he is sitting on a ranch fence, holding a rifle, and shares a story about hunting wolves. The point is to portray Tea Partiers as a caricature stuck in a John Wayne film.
e) Guzman has a dream that he won the presidency in a landslide but adds: “only thing: I lost the Latino vote.” Oooh, take that Latino Republicans! You’re never going to win the Latino vote!
f) When Democrat and head of the ethics committee, Senator Carly Armiston (D-NY), played by Sex and the City alum Cynthia Nixon, approaches Biggs in the Senate dining room, she says:
“You know what John Stuart Mill said? That conservative people aren’t necessarily stupid but stupid people do tend to be conservative. That was then: nowadays, stupid and stupid’s mutant cousins – crazy and evil – are all that’s left of your party.”
g) When the gang reluctantly heads to Afghanistan (purely as a selfish PR move because apparently Republican senators would never voluntarily visit our troops), Laffer is injured by a bomb (the PR boost from the injury works in his favor). One of the army medics notes he will soon head to Walter Reed Hospital, prompting Laffer to nervously tell Bettencourt: “Oh no! I voted to close Walter Reed!” See, GOP-hypocrites? You will be sorry for your entitlement-cutting ways when they personally affect you! And, really, since when do GOP senators vote to cut funding for anything related to our troops or veterans?
h) Senator Roselyn duPeche (D-IL), an African American who lives next door, played by (the hilarious) Wanda Sykes, serves not as a vehicle to take some balancing swipes at Democrats, but rather to attack Republicans some more. She tells Laffer, oozing pity, “your side’s so messed up now, honey. Lincoln would puke.”
i) Bettencourt asks a black janitor for an opinion on his new campaign ad. The janitor responds: “That ad isn’t intended for me. You’re running that ad for white voters, to show them that you’re feelin’ them. I understand, that’s politics. Doing what you gotta do – which is to go all ‘Clarence Thomas’ on us.”
What kind of political show is complete without a joke about that Uncle Tom, Justice Clarence Thomas?
j) The show also slams the Tea Party repeatedly. Three of the main characters are facing challenges from Tea Partiers (the Times article about the show says it’s three so that’s probably what the producers told them, which I assume means Bettencourt’s challenger will also be a Tea Partier). Of course, that’s going to have us rooting for the mainstream, McCain type of establishment conservative, when we inevitably fall in love with these flawed but likable characters.
k) The general portrayal of obvious Rubio analogue Senator Guzman is also problematic. Guzman’s character — a young Cuban-American from Miami — is clearly based on Rubio, with the show even mentioning actual GOP senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as his rivals. But Guzman is annoyingly ambitious (obsessed with running for president), self-absorbed (his bedroom is filled with his childhood trophies), lacking intellect (he takes to the Senate floor to awkwardly commemorate the death of a local TV children’s star), coasts on his smooth-talking ways, and is a complete Rico Suave type who could probably qualify as a sex addict (boarding the elevator on the Hill, he begins to flirt with a young staffer, forgetting they’d ‘already dated’). While the show’s producers note the character is only loosely based on Rubio, the intent is incontrovertible: Guzman becomes Rubio in the viewer’s mind, regardless of the fact that the similarities between the fictional Guzman and real-life Rubio end at demographics.
These jabs add up, when one compares them to the zero — repeat: zero — jabs about Democrats or liberals.
Executive producer Jonathan Alter told the Times that “[t]he show is an attempt … to cut against people’s perception of politicians right now. The point is to humanize Republican senators without letting them off the hook.”
Perhaps thinking Republican senators need humanizing in the first place should have been a clue that “Alpha House” would not be an equal-opportunity offender after all.