Amazon is going all out for its first full-length series

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on November 13, 2013

From The News Desk

Friday marks the premier of Amazon Studios' first full-length television series, "Alpha House." The show tells the story of four Republican senators living together in a bachelor pad (of sorts) in Washington DC, and stars John Goodman.

The show follows the four characters as they bumble through Washington while preparing for their upcoming reelections. In an attempt to prove itself as "relevant" in the current political climate, the show depicts each character as a caricature of some Republican stereotype and how they politically maneuver in the twenty-first century. With such low-brow humor, it's odd that Amazon chose to mark its arrival at a gala and screening this week at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Last month Mark Suster told PandoDaily's CEO and editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy that he sees Amazon as becoming a content-creation powerhouse, a goliath that could one day compete with YouTube. But really, Amazon is taking aim at Netflix.

That said, Amazon Studios is also markedly different from the likes of Netflix given the way it vets projects. For Netflix, it gauges interest by looking at what people pirate online and chooses accordingly.

With Amazon, however, everyone and anyone can submit a script, and the studio decides whether to option it or not. It churns out a slew of pilots that are market-tested with Amazon customers, refined,  then, if chosen, turned into a into full series. Alpha House is one of its first projects.

With the Met, the museum closed its doors to the public and the party began with drinks, shrimp cocktail and a jazz combo playing standards in the hallowed museum hallways, with attendees shuttling through the Egyptian wing to watch the first three unmemorable episodes.

While cocktail parties are par for the course for this kind of launch, the fact that it was at the Met and thrown in such a lavish fashion was a way for Amazon to mark its territory. Amazon wants the world to know the financial ammunition it is putting into its Studios operation, and that it's going to take the TV-streaming world by force -- or by overwrought cocktail party.

Before the screening, the audience listened to a few words from the show's creator Gary Trudeau of "Doonsbury" and "Tanner '88" fame. In true Trudeau fashion, he said, "The nation's rolling misfortunes are our future scripts."

If only the show lived up to hullabaloo that came before it. While I won't get too much into it, the show lacked the momentum the before-party had. The first scene had Bill Murray, and, that was the best one in the entire 90 minutes. The rest of the characters were two-dimensional newspaper punchlines I might have read in a Doonesbury comic.

Even if this show isn't a success, though, given the nature of the event and the other shows Amazon Studios is planning to roll out (it recently announced another lineup of dramas coming soon), Amazon is charging ahead to win the streaming video fight. With names like John Goodman and Ed Begley Jr., it has a chance.

But first it's going to have to make the next "House of Cards," and that may prove difficult.