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Streaming Shows Report: Are Amazon's Alpha House and Betas and Hulu's The Wrong Mans Worth Your Time?

You've probably spent the last couple weeks trying to recover from all the big character deaths that both the broadcast and cable networks have thrown at us recently—and rightfully so, because there have been so many of them. But while most of our minds were focused elsewhere, the online platforms Hulu and Amazon released some new programming of their own. Oh, you haven't heard about it? Yeah, that's because they haven't been promoted especially well. But that's what I'm here for. 

Back in August, I checked in on three new Hulu offerings (Moone BoyThe Awesomes, and Quick Draw, all of which will be returning for more in the future) to assess whether they were really worth squeezing into your already-packed viewing schedule. And now it's time to do the same thing with Amazon's Alpha House and Betas, as well as Hulu's The Wrong Mans. I've watched three episodes of each series; here's my report on whether they're worth your time.



Alpha House

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This Amazon-produced single-camera political comedy follows four Republican senators who all live in a house together in Washington, D.C. The series was created by Doonesbury mastermind Gary Trudeau and stars John Goodman, Clark Johnson (Homicide: Life on the StreetThe Wire), Matt Malloy (Six Feet Under), and Mark Consuelos (Kelly Ripa's husband). Each of the senators has their own issues, from Goodman's Gil John Biggs and Malloy's Louis Laffer facing intense competition in their reelection campaigns to Johnson's Robert Bettencourt fighting off an ethics committee investigation. Consuelos's Andy Guzman mostly gets to look handsome and have sex with Yara Martinez's Adriana de Portago, but hey, someone's gotta do it. 

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE THERE? There are 11 episodes, including the pilot that Amazon made available back in April when it released several shows that were in the running for possible series commitments; Alpha House and Betas were the two to make the cut. You can watch the pilot and two additional episodes for free, but you have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to watch the other eight offerings. 

WHAT'S IT KINDA LIKE? Alpha House offers pretty basic political satire, which makes it something like a low-rent version of HBO's Veep. You don't have to be that knowledgeable about the U.S. government to understand the jokes.

IS IT ANY GOOD? Kind of. Comedy is incredibly subjective, of course, but I didn't laugh that much while watching the first three episodes. However, I definitely thought Episode 3 was the funniest of the bunch, which suggests that the show is finding its footing as it moves along. That's a good sign. One of Alpha House's strengths is that each one of its lead performers brings a completely different energy to the proceedings. John Goodman does John Goodman stuff, Mark Malloy does some embarrassing cringe humor, Mark Consuelos's character is a D-bag, and Clark Johnson doesn't even seem like he's there to do comedy. Although the show could use more political bite, some interesting moments arise when the characters get into the brass tacks of their respective campaigns. Alpha House is weird at times for sure, but it's completely watchable. 

THE VERDICT Take the first three episodes for a spin—that's one of the benefits of Amazon's distribution system. The third one ends on a minor cliffhanger that tries to convince you to watch more (and thus sign up for Prime), but you'll probably know by then whether the show is for you.



Betas

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Amazon's second single-camera comedy introduces us to the hyper-competitive world of app development in contemporary Silicon Valley. Stanford dropouts Trey (Joe Dinicol) and Nash (Karan Soni) are the creators of a next-gen app called BRB that's basically just a cool idea with no real way to work or make money—just like most of the stuff in the Valley today. The show follows Trey, Nash, and their compatriots Hobbes (Jon Daly) and Mitchell (Charlie Saxton) as they try to get BRB off the ground, find luck with ladies, emerge from their neurotic and nerdy shells, etc. It was created by Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard, who have done very little prominent work before this.

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE THERE? Same deal as Alpha House: 11 episodes, with three available to everyone, and eight more available for Amazon Prime members.

WHAT'S IT KINDA LIKE? The Social Network meets Entourage. Come for the app-development drama and in-fighting, stay for consistently tool-ish behavior, recreational drug use, and conversations about hot chicks. 

IS IT ANY GOOD? Not really. The big issue here is that main character Trey is an absolute douche. He's not as mean-spirited as the fictionalized version of Mark Zuckerberg we saw in The Social Network, but he's ten times as smarmy. So basically, he's like every tech start-up 'CEO' you've been reading about online. Betas doesn't seem to know exactly how to portray Trey, and by extension this world that's built on possible future value and venture capital. At times, the series acknowledges that Trey sucks and/or is full of sh*t, and it similarly points to how the entire ecosystem of Silicon Valley is kind of a sham. But when those moments happen, they're almost immediately shuttled away so that Trey can look cool again, or so the story can return to how important it is to make this vague-sounding app actually work in the real world, without stolen information. The show is either trying to have it both ways with the character and the world, or it's simply unable to consistently stay in one lane. But just like with Alpha HouseBetas is really easy to watch. Karan Soni and Jon Daly are pretty good as Nash and Hobbes, and Margo Harshman is fun as Trey's will-they-won't-they love interest/boss character. 

THE VERDICT Well, three free episodes is still only like 90 minutes. I can't fully encourage you to watch Betas, but it might be worth checking out just to be sure that's it something you won't enjoy.



The Wrong Mans


WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This BBC-Hulu co-production follows Sam (Mathew Baynton) and Phil (James Corden) as they fall into a pit of kidnapping, blackmail, death, spies, and more—all because Sam picked up a ringing phone from the ground at the site of a car crash. Each time that Sam and Phil think they've figured out what's going on and who various criminals and delinquents think they are, the story gets more complicated, and they're backed into yet another corner. Baynton and Corden co-wrote the series together; previously they both worked on the popular British comedy Gavin & Stacey

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE THERE? The first season features six episodes. Right now, four are available for free, with the other two to come over the next couple weeks. But if you're a Hulu Plus subscriber, you can access all six episodes immediately. 

WHAT'S IT KINDA LIKE? The Wrong Mans is like a combination of a Coen Brothers movie and the Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost films. The show manages to balance goofball comedy that's full of pop-culture references with violence and suspense, which is not particularly easy to do. It seems aware of its ridiculous nature, but it isn't some kind of parody. The circumstances and stakes are real, even as The Wrong Mans makes time for Fight Club jokes in a scene where Sam is about to have his leg cut off. 

IS IT ANY GOOD? Yes. This is by far the best of the three. Baynton and Corden play off one another very well, giving The Wrong Mans a nice comedic center that's surrounded by nutty plot developments and occasional, surprisingly dark subject matter. The story gets progressively more outrageous with each episode, but that's something you just have to go along with—and the show does a solid job of making that journey easy. The Wrong Mans is also littered with random guest spots from recognizable actors, from Dougray Scott to Homeland's David Harewood, which keeps things interesting. And since it's a co-production, there's probably more money in the production, and it shows. There's a dim grey hue saturating the proceedings that pairs nicely with the storylines.

THE VERDICT Absolutely watch this. The "official" television season didn't bring us too many good new shows, but The Wrong Mans is just that. The story motors through plot points so quickly that it's very easy to just keep hitting play on the Hulu interface. And you should.


Amazon and Hulu are still trying to figure out how and where they fit into the original programming landscape. At the moment, they're both pretty far behind Netflix, and none of these three shows will change that. But Alpha House and Betas prove that Amazon at least knows how to bring decent-to-mediocre projects together, and with The Wrong Mans, Hulu continues to take advantage of co-productions and international deals that bring American viewers most diverse programming. That's something.


Have you checked out any of these shows? If so, what'd you think? If not, do any of them sound good to you? 


Comments (75)
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The third one (Alpha House) ends on a minor cliffhanger that tries to convince you to watch more (and thus sign up for Prime), but you'll probably know by then whether the show is for you.

Why, who hasn't signed up for Amazon Prime? You'd have to be a moron if you haven't signed up for Amazon Prime. Amazon is going to take over the world, so sign up before they ban morons. You know, like the morons who watch American Idol and The Voice and Survivor and the Kardashians. If you morons can afford your Dumbphones, you can afford Amazon Prime.

Alpha House is brilliant, and so are the Amazon pilots Transparent and Bosch. The rest are forgettable.
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Betas is surpisingly really good ! I was hooked from episode 1. It is well cast ! Karan Soni and Jon Daly are really good ! That Japanese chick is totally cool. All 3 have very bright future!
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Totally loved "Betas". Watched all 11 episodes and it got better each week. I live in the Bay Area, but I'm not in the tech industry. I felt like I learned a little about what it's like. And by the last episode I really cared about the characters.

Also watched the Wrong Man's a while back and really liked that show too. I really like James Cordon from his other work on BBC "Gavin and Stacey" and "Stella"
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I watched the pilot of Betas when it initially aired, and it couldn't keep my attention for that single episode so I'm passing on it and Alpha House (mostly because I like political drama not political comedy).

The Wrong Mans I finished the complete season last week and I loved every second of it! I don't know how they could work a second season of this show as it seemed pretty closed ended which British shows are infamous for doing single season productions (The Fades), but I do highly recommend watching this show.
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I'm liking Betas so far after the first three and if they keep giving Margo Harshman more screen time then i will continue to watch.. grew up watching her in Even Stevens so seeing her again brings back old memories.. plus shes pretty hot now which doesn't hurt
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Just came back to say I 100% agree with you Cory, The wrong mans is awesome; watched all 3 eps. today and I absoloutely loved!!! the other two, meh.
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The Wrong Mans is badasserie at its comedic best
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I'll be watching Beta! Absolutely loved the pilot when it came out, but in comparison, I disliked Alpha House a lot. I thought it was among the worst comedy pilots Amazon produced.

Unfortuantely there's no way I can check out The Wrong Mans, being from Australia and all.
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curious as to whether you voted for or liked any of the pilots amazon made available back when. I only really cared for ONN and then thought "those who teach," I think it was, was passable.

I'd say your judgement of alpha house being "a low rent veep" best explains why I had no interest. veep is already low rent IMO. if you're going to joke about the political landscape or anything political make it smart. veep doesn't do this. thankfully there's the newsroom.
anyway, I couldn't make it through the pilots of either betas or alpha house.

I was starting to get interested in the wrong mans just reading your description of it. still never tried any of hulu's others, considered trying the western one, but this one sounds like it has a fresh idea supporting it at least.
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I couldn't get into Quick Draw (the western), but I do recommend you try other Hulu staples, Misfits, The Booth At the End, Whites, Mother Up, and The Awesomes, all shows I've watched and highly recommend to anyone thinking about trying Hulu. Other shows that I plan to try out but can't yet recommend as I've yet to watch are Spoilers with Kevin Smith, Run, Line Of Duty, The Yard 'uncensored', A Day In The Life, and The Straits.
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I think I must have missed that hulu had that many. I've seen a countless number of them advertised for sure and maybe just forgotten all of them but I'll consider checking a couple of those out. I can say for certain I don't intend to add anymore animated shows to my viewing lineup ever, just not in that place anymore, and I think the yard might potentially be on the too offensive side, but the others for sure. and I will still maybe check out an episode of quickdraw if I run out of other things, it is christmas tv break coming up after all.
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Just from the commercial the Yard does look a bit offensive, but to me that could be possibly a good thing though I understand why not for others. Given that, Misfits may also be too offensive, but The Booth At The End should be great drama viewing. I'm not all that much for cartoons either actually, it's more so white noise while I'm gaming on another screen lol
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Watched Alpha Hose last night and found it to be off-shot, so to speak, in that it keeps missing the comedy mark. There's several in/jokes (like one of them being a closet gay) that surface but manage to miss the target harder than a drones' hellfire missile. In fact the opener with Bill Murray appearing and then disappearing as fast is a clear indication of its funny bone gone awry. My favourable sentimental memory for John Goodman has me declining to watch more.
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Couldn't agree more, I felt the same after watching the pilot and I therefore will not be tuning in to watch the rest.
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Liked the The Wrong Mans and Betas. Alpha House has potential. I struggled with the strong armed gags. I was really hoping for a more subtle humor. John Godman is good, it is the reason I will continue to watch this show.
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Just finished watching The Wrong Mans.. It was brilliant.. Thanks Cory :)
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Have watched the first four Alpha House episodes and love it. Already a Prime subscriber so no thought necessary, I'm watching. John Goodman and Clark Johnson have been excellent as always in my opinion.
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I'm still confused as to why Amazon didn't go with 'Onion news empire'.
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Seriously, I would have preferred any of there other pilots over Alpha House. Betas was my favourite though, so I guess I can't complain too much since that got a series order.
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I'm watching Wrong Mans presently up to ep three. I'm still hoping for wittier humor, but I am getting a kick out of the drama part of it up to now. It's enjoyable enough to file in the cool column so far :)
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Wrong mans is excellent and by a mile the best new comedic show I've seen this year. Baynton and the Tony winning Corden are both excellent and hilarious. Great guest stars. Proper laugh out loud moments that leave you hitting rewind. Excellent comedy pairing. If Dads, Mom n Super Fun Night have been getting you down here lies the cure.
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Should I say yawnzzzz now
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The Wrong Mans is a bit all over the place at times. Corden isn't a capable co lead actor but more of an aside, as Gavin and Stacy illustrated. Mathew Baynton pretty much carries things along and it's worth it for some way, way out there moments - poo in a bag anyone, or rent boy for a party?!

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I will watch The Wrong Mans. It looked really good. I don't like the sound of Alpha House. I might watch Betas.
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If I remember correctly, Alpha House was my favorite of the bunch of Amazon shows that they showed the pilot of. I planned on watching it, but haven't done so yet.

I have no idea if I'll watch Betas. The pilot was okay...

I hadn't heard of The Wrong Mans, but your comparing it to a combination of a Coen Brothers movie and the Cornetto trilogy makes me fee like I'm really missing out. I'll try it out.
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Blood and Ice Cream trilogy but thumbs up for the Cornetto nod.
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They are also referred to as the Cornetto trilogy or sometimes the 3 flavours Cornetto trilogy as a joke referring to the Kieslowski Three Colours Trilogy.
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Oh god no, don't waste your time on this. James Corden cannot act full stop- he emotes which is a different thing all together. A reasonably good premise drowns in ham. Bleuurgh.
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Finally, someone else who doesn't believe everything James Cordon does is gold! He's so annoying and he's stuck everywhere you look on the UK channels, now he's worming his way over to the US ones too? Bleugh!
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I find him annoying too as a presenter, he is a bit "shouty" and comes across like an attention-seeking child on panel shows etc. But he has won awards for his acting abilities and The Wrong Mans has been critically well received so might check it out
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In fairness I should say I'm only referring to his TV work. Apparently he's a fantastic stage actor, but I've never seen him so I wouldn't know...
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I feel that as an international site some words lose their impact but still get the message across so on that note - Wanker.
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Speaking of wanker, you seem to be getting all bent out shape because some others aren't digging something on the same level as you are.
May I offer you a chill pill the size of an oreo cookie, Sir?
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I have watched The Wrong Mans. It started out very well. It was both intriguing and funny. Usually you don't get both in the same show. The two leads had great chemistry. I rush through 3 episodes but by the 4th I was a little bored and quite confused. The pace move so fast and the duo is jumping from one point to another that you become slightly confused. Then it starts to get to become more like a cartoon show. I finished episode 5 but feel no desire to watch episode 6. I probably will since its the last episode.

It would have been better if they slow the plot a little and explain certain things in more details.

I am quite interested to watch Betas. Sound like my kind of show.
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Yaaaawwwn.
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Wots the yaawn for? I trust this doesn't mean the site has drawn out another pommie drongo who confuses legitimate criticism of shows made in england with comments about himself needing a pair of tweezers & a magnifying glass to find his salami.

The wrong mans is a poor attempt at a TV show. As so many others have commented what starts off as a good if hackneyed idea get bogged down in frenetic plots whose nuances can't be carried by a cast with the acting ability of a nest of earthworms.
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Hardly fair to level this criticism just at the English. I've seen plenty of American and other nationalities who spit the dummy on here when someone doesn;t like what they like
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