Have you heard about that new show on HBO? The one featuring unlikable white people in the big city?
No. Not that one. The other one.
Veep features Julia Louis-Dreyfus being absofuckinglutely fantastic as vice president Selina Meyer. In the first two episodes, V-POTUS Meyer has become my single favorite asshole-on-purpose character on TV. Meyer is moody, self-absorbed, short-tempered, and terrible with people. She says horrible, stupid things all the time. She’s every person you’ve ever hated at work, every idiot politician you’ve never heard of and at the same time, she’s ever-so-slightly sympathetic. My problem with a lot of comedy in this awful-people genre is that I can’t find anything at all to care about in the characters. I have to care, at least a little bit, to invest in a character week after week. A hate watch is fun as a sometimes food, but I need something more to commit long term.
Much of the humor in Veep is the modernized version of comedies of error. Meyer says something outrageously ill-advised in front of a group of important guests. Meyer’s Green Jobs initiative involves cornstarch utensils that melt in liquid. Meyer’s youngest colleague is the smartest person in the room, but is hindered by the blatant incompetence, malaise and obliviousness of those around her.
Much of the hook in Veep comes from what it doesn’t show or tell its audience. We don’t know which party Meyer belongs to, we never see the president, we don’t know much at all about Selina, other than a few bits and pieces picked up from her conversations and the brief title sequence. The only sets we see are Selina’s office, a few conference rooms and a corridor of cubicles in the White House. This isn’t Sorkin’s romanticized version of the potential in government; this is a cynic’s view of the cogs of government clogged with layer upon layer of bullshit.
The humor is very fast and incredibly funny. It’s sharp and smarter than 90% of the characters speaking it, which helps pretentious viewers like myself appreciate it. The cast is equally great, especially Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer, Chief of Staff, Sufe Bradshaw as Sue Wilson, Meyer’s executive assistant, and of course, Louis-Dreyfus.
Veep has the potential to be one of the strongest offerings on HBO and could hold its own against most of the women-centric comedies on-air today. If you’ve got access to HBO, it’s well worth your time. You can check out the pilot for free (as of the time of this writing) on the official HBO site.