Julia Louis-Dreyfus gamely portrays a bumbling Vice President in HBO’s new series ‘Veep’, a biting and potentially good political satire that’s not always as funny as it should be. Created by Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell of ‘In the Loop’ fame, this is similar stuff to that film, only not always with the same edge to it. Future episodes could get this show there, but right now it’s an entertaining yet mixed bag of a comedy, especially this pilot episode. Personally, I prefer Lena Dunham’s show ‘Girls’ (both the pilot and the second episode, which is just as good), but that’s just me (though to balance things out, I prefer ‘In the Loop’ to ‘Tiny Furniture’), and they’re two different animals. Iannucci and Blackwell have found a subject and a character well worth exploring, so I’m more than willing to overlook the small-ish flaws that keep the show from being as good as I was hoping for. That being said, there’s plenty of things to like here, and I’m very hopeful that this is possibly the low point of the series, and if that’s true, we’ll have something very clever and enjoyable on Sunday nights going forward. The pilot may not be a world beater, but it suggests a strong show to come if they correct the one or two issues I found. I can’t guarantee anything, but I expect good times to be ahead.
The show follows newly elected Vice President of the United States Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus), a former Senator whose failed run for the Presidency wound up resulting in her being tapped as the #2 on the successful ticket. Now in office, she’s finding out just how useless the VP (or Veep…get it?) can often be. She’s a competent enough politician, but she’s not quite made out for this gig, is prone to gaffes, and seems to only be in it for personal gain, making many a headache for her staff. Those dealing with her pseudo incompetence include her Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), her Personal Aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), Director of Communications Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh), and her Executive Assistant Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw). Also hanging around her office are White House liaison Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) and Deputy Director of Communications Dan Egan (Reid Scott). In the pilot, her crisis include accidentally angering the plastics people, the mental retardation people, and the widow of a dead Senator with a problem keeping his hands to himself. There’s not much on plot, and it borders on just being vignettes, but it effective satirizes politics and the office of the Vice President.
If there’s one big selling point for ‘Veep’, it’s the lead performance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. While there are elements of her prior work on display here, this is much more of a role that she can let loose with. She’s not playing a Sarah Palin type character (though the show doesn’t exactly want you to ignore the idea of Palin in office while watching her in action), but an amalgamation of the worst possible Vice President you could have. She sinks her teeth into Selina Meyer and makes her one of the most interesting new characters on television. As for the supporting cast, they’re all effective in the background, but as of now don’t really have too much of their own personality. Tony Hale is essentially her man servant, Anna Chlumsky is the brains of the operation, and Mike McClintock is almost lifted straight out of ‘In the Loop’. It has the makings of an entertaining ensemble, but for now it’s all about Louis-Dreyfus, and that’s certainly no issue just yet.
Armando Iannucci directed and co-wrote the pilot (in addition to creating the show, of course), and it often looks and sounds like his work, specifically ‘In the Loop’. Things move at a real fast pace, though it sometimes appears as though Iannucci and his co-writer Simon Blackwell forgot to make the show as funny as it could have been. The jokes hit at a high percentage, but here and there the initial episode cruises on the idea of the show as opposed to the comedy found in the idea. When it comes to satire, they have it in spades. The laughs are still a bit of a work in progress though.
‘Veep’ should only get better as the show progresses, but as it stands it’s an entertaining enough political satire with a great lead performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. There’s a ton of directions the series could go in during the coming episodes and seasons, so I’m confident in it finding its footing. Most of the show is a success, and the rest should come along. If you like satire, this is something to definitely check out. ‘Veep’ isn’t perfect, but it should be headed in the right direction, so stay tuned!
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