Given the amount of money that's routinely stolen, the marriages betrayed, and the penis pictures tweeted by those in positions of power, I have a natural aversion to politicians. They're all slippery slugs, I say, more intent on stroking their egos and filling their piggy banks than saving the spotted snow owl or letting economic benefits trickle down to us. Watching the folks in Washington drive the country off the cliff is no laughing matter.
But at least the greed and incompetence of our elected officials and the bottom-feeders who surround them have given us something to laugh about in HBO's new comedy Veep. Sunday's premiere introduced much of America to series creator Armando Ianucci, the British comedy whiz behind U.K. political spoofs The Thick of It and In the Loop. He brings his sly take on politics Stateside with Veep, which casts former Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President of the United States. But as is the case with all things foreign, some will love the novelty of it and others will be scared off by its funny way of talking.
Where Veep succeeds is in creating an outlandish peek behind the curtain at a job that is often so overlooked. If everyone stays healthy, the position of Vice President is little more than a career full of making speeches at B-list functions and standing off to the side at A-list ones. And therein lies the comedy: Louis-Dreyfus's Selina Meyer and her cabal of incompetent aides are so close to being the most powerful people in the world, yet as long as President Whoever (he's never named or seen) is still standing, they're relative nothings in Washington. Their attempts to stay relevant with only crumbs to work with result in dealings with minor foes like Big Plastic, and banal office politics like signing a condolence card get amplified because the vice presidency only seems to be noticed when they screw up, which is a lot.
Veep's comedy stylings are something like a British version of 30 Rock, via stage play. Close-ups are scarce, pauses for laughter are nonexistent, traditional acts and structures are ignored, and there's very little else that's indicative of normal television production. This is comedy done the way Ianucci likes it, simultaneously nuanced and in-your-face, and to those who appreciate it it's very funny. In that way, it's similar to the love it or hate it feeling of HBO's other new comedy Girls. It will be adored by some, loathed by others.
It's redundant to say Louis-Dreyfus is great as Meyer; she's one of the best television comedic actors, male or female, in the business. But it's the rest of the cast that really surprises. Tony Hale resurrects Buster Bluth's incompetency for his role as Meyer's bodyguard and fact-checker, a role that couldn't be played by anyone else. Improv legend Matt Walsh, My Boys' Reid Scott, Anna Chlumsky (yes, that Anna Chlumsky), and Tim Simon round out a stellar supporting cast that gels though they've been working together for years. Simon's Jonah, the White House liaison who is in love with the president, might be the best new comedy character of the season.
I loved Veep's premiere and I can't wait to see more. There's a lot of promise to this satire of our corrupt political system, and it's a perfect fit at HBO where it can retain a small but loyal audience.
Don't have HBO or simply missed last night's premiere? You're in luck: You can watch the full episode for free right here: