Veep: Season One.
Armando Iannucci, the man behind the British series The Thick of It and the Oscar-nominated film In the Loop, brings his particular brand of political comedy to U.S. television with Veep, a half-hour HBO program starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President of the United States. If you’ve seen any of Iannucci’s previous work, you should know exactly what you’re getting into here, as Veep hits the same kind of tone and rhythm as we’ve seen from him before. This is a show that doesn’t build itself around plot, but rather around its characters and the clashing of their personalities.
Veep presents a D.C. where everyone is trying to further their careers, no matter the cost of anyone else around them. Each episode does center around a specific scenario, but the comedy is almost all derived from putting these ego-maniacal, backstabbing, selfless creatures in a room and watching them spiral out of control whenever a potentially detrimental situation occurs. If a lesser writer had been responsible for this, Veep could have been a show with deplorable characters who are unbearable to watch and impossible to enjoy. Thankfully Iannucci knows exactly what he’s doing and, with the help of one of the best comedic ensembles currently on television, the laughs come fast and hard through every single episode.
Veep doesn’t bother with trying to add layers to its characters or ever explore any kind of dramatic depth, but it’s hard to find fault with that when it’s just so damn hilarious from one episode to the next. It’s a very in-the-moment kind of comedy without a lot of strands connecting itself, and the kind of character-driven writing can sometimes make it hard to really distinguish one episode from the next (looking back on it now, it’s hard to remember which episodes featured my favorite lines because they could have come from any of them) but Iannucci is still able to build this stable of characters that don’t necessarily grow over the course of this first season but you gradually get a better feel for who they are.
There are also a couple of running jokes that I greatly enjoyed whenever they would pop up, such as whenever Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer would ask her assistant Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) if the President had called — the answer is always no. These little moments make Veep all the more rewarding as it progresses, though I am slightly worried that the appeal of the show will start to wane if it continues to hit the exact same beats continuously. For an eight-episode first season I never got tired of it, but I could myself growing a little worn on it if nothing happens to switch it up a little bit. As it stands though, this is a very enjoyable and promising first season with a tremendous cast of comedic talent.
Supporting players like Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale and Matt Walsh all get their moments to shine and they bring it each week, but the show undoubtedly belongs to Iannucci and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I still feel that Amy Poehler is the best leading female on comedy television at the moment, but it’s hard to be upset about Dreyfus taking that Emmy win when she’s this damn good. I’ve never been a particularly large fan of hers before Veep, but she won me over right away here. The writing is quick, mean and deliciously vulgar every step of the way and Dreyfus pulls absolutely no punches in delivering each of her lines. It’s a go-for-broke performance that stands firmly as one of the best in comedic television right now.
01. “Frozen Yoghurt” (1.02)
02. “Full Disclosure” (1.07)
03. “Chung” (1.04)
04. “Tears” (1.08)
05. “Nicknames” (1.05)