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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Last week I had the pleasure of having lunch with my friend Ken Tigar, a wonderful stage and screen actor known for roles on TV in shows as diverse as “The Good Wife,” “L.A. Heat,” “Growing Pains,” and my favorite, “Barney Miller.” Ken has also appeared in films and done a good deal of stage work as well. In fact, he was passing through Rochester to rehearse a play that he’s performing in Cape Cod for the next couple of weeks. If you’re in the area, you can catch him at the historic Cape Playhouse through July 5th starring as Sigmund Freud in “Freud’s Last Session.” I saw him in the show here at GEVA two years ago and it was really great. I highly recommend it!

In the course of our visit, I asked what we’d been working on and he mentioned a show called “Alpha House” which is being produced by Amazon. I was intrigued and as an Amazon Prime member, I was anxious to check it out because I actually have easy access to watch it. I don’t subscribe to HBO, Showtime, Netflix, etc. but I do have Amazon Prime. I came home and watched the pilot episode of “Alpha House” and was instantly intrigued. I think I ended up watching the entire 11 episode first season in 2-3 days. I wanted to make it last longer but I couldn’t – it was too good. I loved it!

The show created by Garry Trudeau of the comic strip Doonesbury fame, is based on four Republican senators who share a house in Washington, D.C. while Congress is in session. The only problem I had with the show is it actually humanized Conservative Republicans for me a little bit. In that sense, I guess it’s a bit of a fantasy. Primarily it’s a comedy although there are serious aspects to the show as well. These are some wonderfully written characters. Some of the peripheral characters can sometimes seem more like caricatures but the main participants are multi-layered, even if they don’t immediately seem so.

The show stars John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos as the four Republicans sharing a home in D.C. My personal favorites are Goodman as Senator Gil John Biggs of North Carolina and Matt Malloy as Senator Louis Laffer of Nevada. Both are hilarious. Clark Johnson as Senator Robert Bettencourt of Pennsylvania could probably be plopped down into the Capitol and go completely unnoticed because he seems so natural and perfectly cast as a U.S. Senator. I actually love Johnson as well because his character is given more and more depth as the first season progresses. It’s really only Kelly Ripa’s husband Mark Consuelos that I don’t care for but that, too, is probably a compliment. Consuelos plays the sleaziest of the group, Senator Andy Guzman of Florida, a guy who could seriously end up as President which is one of the things that makes his character so frightening and true-to-life.

There are some truly wonderful supporting characters and actors in the series as well: Yara Martinez as Adriana brings light and joy to the Senators home as well as to every scene she’s in. Julie White gives John Goodman everything he can handle and more as his wife Maddie Biggs who is desperately trying to get her husband re-elected. Amy Sedaris is always hilarious in anything she does and she shines once again as Senator Louis Laffer’s wife, Louise. Wanda Sykes plays a reasonable Democratic Senator who is a good friend to Senator Laffer and Cynthia Nixon plays another Democratic Senator who is a constant challenge to her Republican colleagues as witnessed by her participation at this non-partisan prayer brunch.

One of the interesting story lines is that three out of the four senators living in the house are being challenged in primary races. Two, in particular, Laffer and Biggs, have to directly address issues relating to Tea Party candidates running against them. In this clip, Senator Biggs, played by John Goodman, is speaking into the camera of an operative hired by his opponent to follow him around. He went AWOL from his campaign for a day and went back to his hometown, Ruby Shoals, and was disappointed and disgusted by how even the people in his hometown had changed and moved away from the values that he’d remembered as a child. He gets fed up and tells the kid following him around to turn the camera on and this is what we get.

I can’t wait for the next season to begin. It was announced at the end of March 2014 that “Alpha House” had been picked up for a second season of shows by Amazon. Unfortunately, I did not see any timetable as to when those new shows would begin to appear.

Our friend, Ken Tigar, was seemingly written out of the show in the last episode of Season One, much to his disappointment. However, as we were talking last week, he said his agent had just received a call about doing another episode in the fall so . . . we shall see.

Whatever the case, I highly recommend “Alpha House.” It is, by far, one of the best written shows on “TV” today although it’s not on TV, in right here on the net.


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