Alpha House creator Garry Trudeau has no idea how many people are watching the Amazon streamed program.
“We don’t know,” he told TV critics at Summer TV Press Tour 2014. “One of the interesting things about working for Amazon is it’s kind of a black box. We don’t know what the metrics are. We’re just thrilled when they say the audience likes it and they want to put together another season. We’re not really part of appraising the show… We just try to make the best show we can.”
Amazon Studios comedy chief Joe Lewis had opened the session talking about the audience’s acceptance of the show; one TV critic, who noted competitor Netflix is “very mysterious about how many people are watching” its program, asked, Lewis, “Do you know how many people are watching, and will you tell us?”
“We do know how many, and I’m not going to tell you,” Amazon Studios comedy chief Joe Lewis said. He insisted they are concerned about the feedback and not necessarily about “the number.”
“Showtime used to pull this all the time too,” the TV critic snapped. “Why are you so mysterious about the number of people watching, per month?”
“It’s because when we’re talking to the creator….and when we talk among ourselves, it’s not the numbers we’re talking about. .. we’re talking about making something our customers love” Lewis said. Which, of course, would be gauged by looking at how many customers are watching. Also known as ratings.
During the previous Q&A session for Amazon’s new comedy, Transparent, Lewis talked about Amazon staying out of show creators’ way. During the Alpha House session Trudeau said, when asked if Amazon gave notes or wanted to have conversations about where the show and the characters were going, “I would be surprised not to have that conversation. Obviously they’re quite curious where we’re going. As far as story arcs, Amazon is very interested — the folks are very interested in knowing where the characters are going.”
Critics gave up on Lewis and the Amazon angle after asking the cast what’s the difference between working for TV and working for Amazon, and star John Goodman responded, “I got shanked in the cafeteria — we share a stage with Orange is the New Black. That rarely happened on Roseanne.”
Alpha House, written by Trudeau and produced by Trudeau, Elliot Webb and Jonathan Alter, is a comedy about four Republican senators who live together in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill. It was inspired by the actual Capitol Hill home known as The Omega House that’s shared by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; and Rep. George Miller, D-California. The second season is set to show up in late October.
The show has become a cameo stop for Washington — in January, Anthony Weiner made it one of the stations of the cross on his road to career redemption, appearing in an episode that also featured cameos from Tom Brokaw, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
TV critics asked the cast: Is there any messages they wanted delivered to the public through this political comedy?
“People are bad. they are sheep,” Goodman guessed.
Last November, Trudeau said he’d read a story about four real congressmen who live together — one of whom said a lot of people mentioned that it would make a great TV series, but the problem was “who’s gonna watch a show about four middle-age guys with no sex and violence? So the way we got around that is, we added sex and violence.”
In March, Amazon Studios confirmed a second-season pickup for the comedy, that also stars Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson and Matt Malloy as Republican senators living under one roof. At that time, Trudeau said, “Alpha House is a joy to work on…It’s fun to dance on the leading edge of streaming video, where audiences converge on server farms at all hours, besotted by John Goodman and free two-day shipping.”