Alpha House

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Alpha House TV Poster Image
Political comedy is fresh, funny but full of iffy content.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Lots of behind-the-scenes political happenings give viewers a somewhat cynical, but not negative, view of government.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters who inhabit Alpha House are realistically imperfect: They drink, smoke, and sometimes philander. They aren't bad guys, but neither are they the morally upright types we might expect GOP officials to be.

Violence

Guns are displayed and discussed, and at one point the Alpha House roomies go to the basement for drunken target practice at a pumpkin in front of a mattress.

Sex

No nudity, but sex is frequently joked about and referred to. One character hooks up in a White House room in front of sleeping colleagues; this is played for laughs. Sexual and insulting language is sometimes used, such as when one senator calls another a "faggot." One character is always on the hunt for sex.

Language

Frequent cursing, usually in joking rank-outs: "He makes you look like a horse's ass." There are many uses of four-letter words, including "f--k," and "s--t," plus epithets such as "faggot."

Consumerism

Mentions of real-life celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stephen Colbert. Colbert appears as himself on one show, hosting one of the Alpha House officials as a guest.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Members frequently drink and make references to being "s--tfaced" or "liquored up." They may act foolishly after drinking, for example, playing with guns.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alpha House is a mature political comedy with frequent strong language and lots of references to sex. The main characters are Republican senators who seem to take their responsibilities lightly and mock things viewers may hold sacred, such as laws and the U.S. military. At least one of the senators is divorced; we see him dating, hosting women in his limo, and even having sex with one woman standing up against a wall surrounded by his sleeping colleagues. Race and sexual orientation also is up for mockery, as are religion, abortion rights, and feminism. Easily offended viewers will find much to be upset over, but political junkies will find Alpha House fresh, funny, and realistic.

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What's the story?

Four Republican senators share the Washington, D.C., ALPHA HOUSE, but they each have their own problems to worry about. North Carolina's Gil John Briggs (John Goodman) has been coasting on his past as a famous basketball coach for years, but now he faces serious electoral competition from Duke's current basketball coach. "You're like a retired god, but he's active," says roomie Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy), who's worried that his constituency views him as weak and unmanly compared to his gun-toting Tea Party opponent. Meanwhile, senior Pennsylvania Senator Robert Bettencort (Clark Johnson) is caught in an ethical dilemma that could get him bounced from his job, and newly single Florida rake Andy Guzman (Mark Consuelos) is just as interested in maintaining his slick can-do image as he is in racking up bedpost notches. Will the four of them hold on to their jobs, retain the respect of their constituencies, and keep the GOP together in the face of a new ultraconservative threat?

Is it any good?

Garry Trudeau, you've still got it. The Pulitzer prize winner and creator of the long-running political strip Doonesbury has created something fresh and funny. Every aspect of this production is wonderful, from writing to set-dressing to acting to camera work. The dialogue is realistic yet hilarious.

The dramatic challenges set up by Alpha House's pilot are equally interesting. Briggs is on a collision course with a better-loved sports figure; Bettencourt is thisclose to being called up by the Ethics Committee; Laffer desperately seeks a way to look more "ballsy" to the electorate. These are funny guys with funny problems; viewing hours spent watching them work things out is time well spent for mature viewers with a taste for politics.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they believe Alpha House to be an accurate representation of how political figures behave. Is the show realistic, or are things amped up to provide comedy?

  • Compare Alpha House to some other political comedies or dramas you've seen, such as Veep, The West Wing, or The Good Wife. How is Alpha House alike? How is it different?

  • Is the viewer supposed to like the senators featured on the show? What about their characterization brings you to this conclusion? Are we supposed to be laughing with or at these characters?

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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