Published Mar 25, 2014Armando Iannucci might not be the best-known name, especially to North American audiences, but he's been responsible for some of the best comedy of the past 20 years back in his native United Kingdom. He had a hand in the creation of Steve Coogan's masterpiece Alan Partridge, but his most perfect work is The Thick Of It, a ferocious satire of British government that, at times, appeared to be almost prophetic in its accuracy. After testing the U.S. waters with the 2009 movie In The Loop, Iannucci finally made his North American television debut on HBO with Veep.
As the title suggests, the main focus of the show is the Vice President of the United States, but the twist is that the Veep just happens to be a woman. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) stumbled into the position after her own bid for the presidency failed, and it hasn't turned out to be quite what she expected. In fact, she doesn't really get along with the President (who never actually appears onscreen) and is often his punching bag and scapegoat.
There's a lot of awkwardness on display as Selina and her staff go from one blunder to another, stumbling their way through a relatively disastrous presidential term. Admittedly some of it is down to other people's errors, but it is that messiness that's the focus of these ten episodes.
Veep might initially appear to be a lot less mean-spirited than The Thick Of It, but it has a lot more bite than anyone would expect from a smiling Louis-Dreyfus on the back cover. Iannucci has kept his razor-sharp political insight and cuts right through the bullshit to deliver a great satirical look at what happens in Washington, D.C. Plus, it has the best use of swearing in a North American show since Deadwood.
Louis-Dreyfus is great — there's a reason she's won a couple of Emmys for her performance here — and she definitely exorcises the last of her Seinfeld ghosts amidst a cast that really comes into its own in this season. There are lots of familiar faces amidst the supporting characters, such as Arrested Development's Tony Hale, who is wonderfully neurotic as the Veep's personal aide, and Gary Cole as the President's senior strategist. It all makes for an incredibly strong ensemble in which nobody is satisfied to simply lurk in the background. Ultimately, though, the show's success stems from the scripts, and that's what makes Veep one of the funniest shows on television at the moment.
The extras are fairly typical: there is a commentary track on four episodes with Louis-Dreyfus, Iannucci and assorted cast members that are entertaining enough, but not as entertaining as the show itself. The obligatory deleted and alternate scenes are not as good as those used in the show, but are still an interesting enough way to spend 40 minutes. (HBO)