Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Review: Veep

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Grade: A

Comedies don’t often arrive as fully formed as HBO’s new Veep. They just don’t. They usually take a handful of episodes to find their voice and their style, but damn it if Veep doesn’t hit it out of the park in its first appearance at the plate [1]. After watching Veep’s first episode, “Fundraiser,” three – THREE – times, I’m left struggling to think of the last comedy pilot I liked as much as this one. Community back in 2009 is the only one that comes immediately to mind. I wasn’t a huge fan of Louie’s pilot in 2010, such was the jarring tonal shift of the show. Parks And Recreation’s was pretty close to bad in 2009. Hell… even the vaunted Arrested Development took a handful of episodes – give or take – to get itself off the ground. But Veep was note perfect throughout its entire first installment, immediately throwing down the gauntlet and announcing its candidacy for the best comedy on television. Coming from the mind of Glaswegian writer Armando Iannucci (In The Loop), Veep is a workplace comedy set in a rather unique setting – the office of the Vice President of the United States. Seinfeld vet Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, the Vice President who is shown to be someone with lofty ambitions but who is marginalized in her job even as she’s a breath away from becoming the leader of the free world. Louis-Dreyfus noted during an interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show back in April that part of what drew her to the series was that no one ever really aspires to the Vice Presidency, and the show uses that paradox to its advantage. There’s a nice running gag that develops where Meyer asks her executive assistant whether the President has called each time she enters the office, and the answer is always no. The show is also very wise not to alienate one political party or the other by never specifying which party Meyer belongs to, so everyone trying to paint Veep as some kind of Sarah Palin parody can shut their faces right now. Since the office serves as the base for much of Veep’s action, Meyer is surrounded by her staff; Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky, looking a loooong way from My Girl), personal aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale, playing a slightly more self-aware version of Buster Bluth from Arrested Development), hapless press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh, Upright Citizens Brigade), smarmy and ambitious Dan Egan (Reid Scott, The Big C), and executive assistant Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw). It’s clear after the show’s first 30 minutes that there are no weak links in this cast. Every character is well-defined – another rarity in pilots – and each of the actors are capable at worst and exceptional at best. Iannucci has a gift for creative profanity [2] and the cast delivers his delicious lines perfectly. “Fundraiser” portrays the myriad fires that the office of the VPOTUS must put out on a daily basis, from currying favor with an egotistical senator after running afoul of the oil industry, to dealing with the overzealous liaison from the President’s office (Timothy Simons), to managing the controversy when Meyer jokingly (and in very un-PC fashion) refers to a fired staffer as a “retard” during an event. Granted, it’s just one episode but Veep has the potential to become a show for the ages. Iannucci is an incredibly talented writer who’s assembled a crack cast unencumbered by the shackles of over-the-air television, taking full advantage of the freedoms that premium cable affords [3]. Again, if Veep can sustain the momentum generated by “Fundraiser”… watch out. People like myself won’t be able to recommend it highly enough because it’ll be television’s next great comedy. It really is that good.

[1] Us writers love our hoary sports metaphors.
[2] Selina, after realizing that much of the speech she’s due to give minutes later has been censored by the President’s office: “This has been pencil-fucked?” “Front and back. Very little romance.”
[3] Witness this monologue from Amy after Selina solicits her opinion of the slimy Dan – Amy: “Oh, Dan is a shit.” Selina: “You want to expand on that?” Amy: “Sure. He’s a massive and total shit. When you first meet him you think, ‘Surely to God this man can’t be as big a shit as he seems, but he is. Like if there were a book with covers made of shit you’d think, ‘That’s intriguing. I wonder what’s in this book that they saw fit to give it covers made of pure shit. And then you open it, and… shit.” Or this one, from the senator that Meyer meets with to perform a little damage control after the snafu with Big Oil: “You piss off plastics, you piss off oil and you don’t want to fuck with those guys because they fuck in a very unpleasant fashion.”

Miscellany:
*Louis-Dreyfus also noted in that same Daily Show interview that we will never see the President himself, which is another smart move on Iannucci’s part. It’s also a nod to the history of sitcoms like Cheers and Frasier, both of which had characters that played a large role in the goings-on but were never actually seen.
*Matt Walsh is a very talented comedian and has always been great when he’s shown up in spot roles here and there, so I love seeing him finally get a showcase here.
*Another sign that Veep is on to something: its attention to the little details. There’s a great scene where Gary wants to put down a super-hot cup of coffee only to have Selina tell him that she needs to tell him something, but she can’t remember what it is, so he just ends up standing there with the coffee burning his hands. The expressions on Tony Hale’s face throughout are incredible.
*I like how, much like how I’d imagine that offices in Washington work, the show moves seamlessly from crisis to crisis. In the first 30 minutes alone, Meyer pisses of oil with her clean jobs initiative, needs to ingratiate herself with a senator for help, puts her foot in her mouth by making a retard joke, hires a new aide, all while the office manages a hilariously clandestine op to retrieve a condolence card for a senator that Amy mistakenly signed her own name to while trying to forge Meyer’s signature. Veep uses every one of its 30 minutes, and it uses them efficiently.
*”Glasses make me look weak. It’s like a wheelchair for the eye.”
*”Mike, talk to me. I’m in a room with three people and a fuckload of quiche.”
*”She’s mediocre. Really. Of all the ‘ocres’ she’s the ‘medi-est.'”
*”Next time pack an espresso machine in your big fuckin’ bitch bag.”
*”Rapey Reeves.” “He was the first senator to welcome me to the Capitol. You know… he was old – even then.” “Was he full of wisdom?” “He was full of bourbon. And he grabbed my left tit. Remember that?” “And God rest his soul.”
*”Did you fire your tweet monkey yet? Because that guy is a weapons-grade retard. I think you might have been hoist by your own retard there.”
*”You know my motto: I don’t want to know. Anyways, what motto? I don’t have a motto.”
*”That address makes me hard. Kiss you, miss you.”
*”I’ll redact your fuckin’ face.”
*”What if Tom Hanks dies?” “How did you get your job? You want to base your strategy around whether Tom Hanks dies?”
*”Hey, good lookin’. What you got cookin’? Dickwad pie?”
*”When a sexual harasser dies, we sign his wife’s card. That’s how Washington works.”
*”Is this going to become like Moonlighting where we fall in love and start fucking?”
*”Well… good luck, Gary. I’m convinced that you can probably do this.”
*”Amy… here we go. Shrimp linguine and a porno. I’m just kidding — it’s chicken linguine.”
*”Amy… I NEED a shit!”
*”Touch me and you lose a finger. And a ball.”

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