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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 13th, 2013
06:26 PM ET

'Doonesbury' creator launches show on Amazon

"Alpha House," a comedy about four Republican senators sharing a Capitol Hill townhouse, is one of 14 online pilots produced by Amazon studios. Yes, the same Amazon where you bought that last-minute Mother's Day gift. The show boasts a cast television network executives dream about: John Goodman, Mark Consuelos, cameos with Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert.

The show's creator is a familiar name, too - Garry Trudeau, better known as the creator of comic strip "Doonesbury." Trudeau says the new Amazon venture was a way to bring his signature Washington satire to the small screen on a fast track.

"They were trying to put together a slate of pilots quickly. They wanted to get going. And this was ready to go," said Trudeau.

"The Amazon studio was so new, there were so few executives available to interfere, that we basically were given, you know, a lot of support, and not that much guidance," said Trudeau.

Amazon provided the funding for the series.

"They wanted to get into the content business," said Trudeau. "Amazon's idea was that if we can create high-end television, comparable to good cable series, then we can compete in that space."

It is the same thing HBO had to convince viewers of 20 years ago. Netflix is also trying to cash in on the original online programming craze with shows like "House of Cards."

Amazon's twist on the digital content trend is that it uses viewer metrics and feedback to decide which shows stay alive. Just as buyers can post a customer review on products, Amazon is getting real-time feedback by allowing viewers to post user reviews of the pilots. "Alpha House" has more than 2,000 to date, and averages four stars. Soon, Amazon will take the pilots offline and decide which shows will be picked up for a full season.

"So instead of just a couple of executives, you know, in the tower, deciding whether to pull the trigger on a series," said Trudeau, "their decisions will be more informed by what the public might actually like,"

Trudeau has television experience, he wrote the political mockumentary "Tanner 88." But his day job is still drawing "Doonesbury." The comic strip and its characters made him a star, and a hero to a once-fledging cartoonist - CNN's Jake Tapper. Tapper had a college comic strip, and his main character was Garry, named for his idol at the time - Garry Trudeau.

Watch Jake Tapper and Gary Trudeau draw memorable cartoon characters in this web-exclusive clip.

Forty-three years after its creation, Trudeau's Pulitzer Prize winning comic strip is still going strong.

"This cartooning thing just kind of found me. It wasn't something I sought. I was recruited out of college in my junior year," said Trudeau.

Now, Trudeau is hoping viewers will find "Alpha House," and vote to keep it "on-air."

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