If you're already of the opinion that the U.S. Senate is a clown act on steroids, "Alpha House," a promising new comedy from Amazon Studios, will do nothing to change your mind.

The online-only series, created by "Doonesbury" mastermind Garry Trudeau, follows four largely clueless Republican Senators played by John Goodman, Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson and Matt Malloy, who live together in a Washington D.C. rental.

Think: "House of Cards" crossed with "Animal House."

Goodman, as you might expect, hogs much of your attention. He plays a bored Southerner and former head coach at the University of North Carolina, who is coasting on past glory. The everyday responsibilities of politics don't interest him. He mostly just wants to sleep in the shower, booze it up and enjoy the many perks of his office.

Malloy is a pint-size, somewhat effeminate, lawmaker who feels the awkward need to bolster his stance against gay marriage because he's running for re-election against a macho-man candidate. But when he receives an award from the Council for Normal Marriage ("Just say no to sodomy") and humiliates himself in a wrestling match on "The Colbert Report," chances of another term look pretty bleak.

Meanwhile, Consuelos (aka Mr. Kelly Ripa) plays a slick, womanizing hotshot who has his eyes on the White House, and Johnson is mostly the straight man, though his character faces possible censure for past misdeeds.


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Biting, profane and cynical, "Alpha House," like HBO's "Veep," doesn't cast its politicians in the best of light. They're mainly self absorbed and looking to take the easy way out. Judging from three episodes made available for review, the show isn't exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but it's smartly written and the cast jells from the start.

Alpha house
In this photo provided by Amazon Studios, from left, Mark Consuelos, John Goodman, Clark Johnson and Matt Malloy star in Amazon's first original series “Alpha House” which debuts Nov.15, 2013, on Amazon.com. (AP Photo/Amazon Studios, JoJo Whilden) (JoJo Whilden)

The endeavor is greatly enhanced by a short, but hilarious, cameo by Bill Murray in the pilot, and a hysterical guest stint by Colbert. Appearing in the supporting cast and helping to offset the testosterone overload are Cynthia Nixon and Wanda Sykes, who hopefully will have more to do in future episodes.

One potential obstacle for "Alpha House": In making Republicans the butt of most of its jokes, it plays to just one side of the room, which is somewhat unfortunate given that we already have cable news stations stuck in that mode.

There were times when I was watching when I couldn't help but experience an uncomfortable feeling that an agenda was in play. So, Mr. Trudeau, are Democrats not goofy and shallow, too?

In jumping into the original programming derby, Amazon is following a different playbook than Netflix. Instead of putting all 11 episodes of "Alpha House" out at once, it will post three episodes on Friday (Nov. 15), which will be available for free for anyone on Amazon.com. Future episodes will appear on a one-a-week basis and will require a subscription to Amazon Prime.

And there's more on the way. Next week, Amazon debuts its second show, "Betas," a sitcom set in Silicon Valley.

Contact Chuck Barney at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney, or Twitter.com/chuckbarney