The thought of an heroic President fighting the enemy after George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter just doesn’t seem viable.
So I suppose we should thank Sarah Palin for inadvertently giving us Selina Meyers, the cheery but haphazard Vice President in Veep. While Julia Louis-Dreyfuss has clarified that the role is not based on any particular politician, Palin’s time in the spotlight allows the audience to believe that such comedy is believable.
Take your pick of the gaffes, disasters, and comedys-of-error that pepper the plots of this HBO comedy. Like Yes, Minister and The Thick of It these are cyclones that sweep up the characters in their way, most of whom manage to turn resistance into acceleration, and spit them out at the end.
Louis-Dreyfuss is pitch-perfect as Meyers. She smiles through gritted teeth as political mishaps thwart her every step, with a staff driven by various degrees of ambition, ineptness and pride. It sort of beggars belief that she’s actually risen to such heights in the first place. Watching her struggle only to return to her starting point, sitcom-style, is half the fun.
This season Meyers will find herself running for the top job which opens up all sorts of story opportunities. We begin with Selina at a book signing for her book “New Beginnings” (disclaimer: she didn’t actually write it) while her Director of Communications Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh) is getting married to Wendy Keegan (Kathy Najimy).
With her staff attending the nuptials, Meyers is forced to soldier on with a schmuck for an assistant. In truth he probably registers just marginally above some of her own anyway.
Veep overflows with constant PR gaffes as Meyers shakes hands or converses with people thrust in front of her, but without any context on who they are or which side of politics they fall down on. These make the most of Louis-Dreyfuss’ ability to smile incessantly with pat answers that neither commit, nor contradict. After years of doing a show about nothing, it is an expert skill.
The VP will also be cornered on key policies that leave her and her staff rudderless in the backrooms while a prying media is never far away. There’s even a Saturday Night Live-style dilemma (Tina Fey meets Sarah Palin, anyone?) of comedians taking the piss.
Universally disliked White House liaison Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) will have a major falling out that repositions him this season.
Louis-Dreyfuss is aided by a terrific ensemble including Tony Hale as the sad-sack personal aide Gary Walsh, Reid Scott as her zealous deputy director of communications Dan Egan and Anna Chlumsky as the problem-solving chief of staff Amy Brookheimer.
Armando Iannucci’s gags fly thick and fast here, sometimes feeling like we have strayed into improvisational-territory. Clearly inspired by the success of comedies like The Office, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, Veep delights in deriving its humour from that which is most socially-inappropriate. It’s unashamedly awkward, vain and vacuous, wielding great power and no power all at the same time.
With Julia Louis-Dreyfess at the centre of its DC universe, Veep is terrific fun.
Veep airs 5:30pm Mondays on Showcase.