*** (out of ****)
One of the biggest problems with Hulu’s original line-up, most of which was reviewed on the PopFilter Podcast, is that it doesn’t feel professional. No one minds if a show is super low-budget, or if it stumbles out of the gate a little bit, but their shows don’t even feel like TV. They feel like they were made by high school students who were forced to make a TV show as a school project, and did the best they could based on nothing more than they have watched TV before. Now Amazon jumps into the original programming ring with two shows – both of which have Greek letters in their titles – with Alpha House and Betas. The two shows have varying levels of success, but one thing is for sure: Amazon just left Hulu in the dust.
The show with the highest profile is Alpha House, as it has a big name star (John Goodman), and a big name creator (Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau). Goodman stars as a Texas senator who lives, along with three other senators, in a three bedroom house when they’re on the job. All four senators are republican. This seems like it would present a bit of a problem. Either liberals are going to hate it, because it shines such a great light on its characters, or only liberals will like it, as it treats its characters like boobs. Alpha House does a pretty good job of fleshing out its characters so that I’m not infuriated the entire time. I don’t want my political beliefs to have any bearing on whether or not I enjoy something, and Alpha House’s agenda seems to be skewering the system as a whole, as opposed to a particular party.
Just like the Hulu shows, Alpha House doesn’t exactly feel like old-fashioned network TV either, but the difference between this and the Hulu shows is a confidence. Alpha House seems to really know what it’s doing, and what it’s going for. The jokes aren’t as frequent as you might want, but that’s OK with Alpha House. It’s as funny, as it needs/wants to be, so don’t you worry about it. It’s not like jokes fall flat, it’s that it’s going for whatever, it’s going for, and sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s less funny. There’s no rules here. They don’t have to break for commercials if they don’t want to, or subscribe to a particular length based on its genre or place on a schedule. I had no idea what to expect from a TV show produced by a shopping website, but I certainly didn’t think it would be this confident.
**1/2 (out of ****)
Betas is a lot less successful, but still not that bad, and would certainly be the best show on Hulu (fuck Hulu!). Joe Dinicol, who feels like he would have starred in a shitty American Pie spinoff franchise, stars as Tre, the face of a company that is trying to get funding for a social media app they have designed. The other three include the autistic genius, the fat one, and Comedy Bang Bang regular/Kroll Show star Jon Daly, who seems severely handcuffed here, but could find little ways to break out of them eventually.
It’s an interesting premise, almost like Nerdtourage, as some of these young app-designers are breaking rich just as hard as young rappers and actors. Unfortunately, the show won’t just be – it’s always trying to hard to ratchet up the drama or prove that they know a lot of lingo. There’s a likability among this cast. By the end of the first three episodes, you actually do find yourself rooting for them. But not enough to pay for Amazon Prime.