What I Watched Last Night: Veep

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. 

Collector plate of fictional HBO character Selena Meyer
Image from HBO.com

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.

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Profile photo of [E] Selena MacIntosh*

[E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

9 thoughts on “What I Watched Last Night: Veep”

  1. I think that the second episode was a vast improvement on a sort of lackluster pilot. I find that JLD is someone who has grown on me more as she’s gotten older — there’s just something about her now that I find far more likable than in her Seinfield days.

  2. I like this show and it rings true to me from my vantage point as someone who worked in DC with people who had left such jobs for the private sector. My concern is that it could become claustrophobic — they are keeping the focus on the cast right now, which might be for the purposes of character exposition, but it needs to start having more people come in and out of the mix.

    Also, I didn’t recognize Anna Chlumsky!  I’ll always have a soft spot for her.

  3. I’m glad that it is good!  I’ve been waiting for it since I heard that Ianucci was writing for it.  Have you all watched “The Thick of It”? (created by the same guy, also about government as it is, not as it should be).  If not, go now and enjoy Malcolm Tucker and his sweary, sweary ways.

  4. I’m so glad to hear this show is worth watching. I was sort of debating picking up episodes through the HBO app, but wasn’t sure if it was worth the money. Sounds like it may be. YAY! Another smart, women-centric series!

  5. This show is fantastic.  And, it has Buster Bluth as her “body man”!

    I decided the sympathy I have for Selena is because she is Vice President and that means nothing.  I love every time she asks if the President called.  It humanizes her.

    1. Tony Hale is great in this! I’ve only seen a handful of Arrested Development (I know.) episodes, but I think this character has a bit in common with Buster.

      I like the recurring gag with the President calling, too. And the little quiet moments where we can tell Selina knows everything around her is bullshit but there’s nothing she can really do about it.

      I can’t believe it’s not getting more attention. I know there’s a lot to discuss with Girls and GOT, but this show is brilliant. It’s rabid-fan-worthy.

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