The Washington Post

Trudeau extends ‘Doonesbury’ sabbatical to finish work on new TV series ‘Alpha House’

That’s the problem with remodeling. In trying to build his own Alpha House, Garry Trudeau says he has hit an immovable wall.

The “Doonesbury” cartoonist has been on sabbatical this summer as he readies his Washington-based TV series, “Alpha House,” one of the inaugural projects for Amazon Studios. That has meant a season of “Doonesbury Flashbacks” — a.k.a. reruns — on the comics page, with the comic strip’s return originally slated for Labor Day.

Now, like a Groundhog Day alert, comes new word: “Doonesbury” fans will get 10 more weeks of darkness. Original strips are now scheduled to return on the week of Nov. 18. The weekly color strip returned on Sunday.

Trudeau “has informed us that following ‘Doonesbury’s’ return to Sunday comic pages, and as he continues to write and produce ‘Alpha House’ for Amazon Prime, he has been forced to acknowledge a cruel reality: He’s human,” his syndicate, the Kansas City-based Universal Uclick, said in a note to client editors.

“I have hit the wall,” Trudeau said in the announcement. “This is a painful decision, but as the deadline loomed, I had to finally concede that the demands of completing the show have made it impossible for me to return to the strip on schedule.”

“Doonesbury,” which in 1975 became the first comic strip to win a Pulitzer Prize (for its satirizing of Watergate), went on sabbatical June 10. Trudeau decided he needed the break after his new live-action Capitol Hill comedy, “Alpha House,” was officially picked up by Amazon Studios, an enterprise of, whose chairman and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, will complete his $250 million purchase of The Washington Post in the next few weeks.

“Alpha House” is one of the first five series Amazon Studios greenlighted as it moves into the world of original scripted programming. The series, which stars John Goodman and Clark Johnson, centers on the lives of four Republican senators who share a residence. The Beltway-savvy satire was inspired by the true-life living arrangements of four prominent Democrats — after Trudeau read a news story in 2007 about roomies Rep. George Miller (Calif.), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Bill Delahunt (Mass.) sharing a two-bedroom house in the shadow of the Capitol dome.

Trudeau’s previous screen projects include Robert Altman’s Emmy-winning HBO political series “Tanner ’88” and the Sundance Channel sequel, “Tanner on Tanner.” He also wrote the animated “A Doonesbury Special,” which received an Oscar nomination and a Cannes jury prize.

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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