A transatlantic offshoot of creator Armando Ianucci’s razor tongued British political satire, that already found fame and an Oscar nod for Best Screenplay with 2009 movie In the Loop, HBO’s Veep should find itself to be election season catnip for politicos and anyone else so sick of polarizing partisanship they can do nothing else at this point but laugh. Careful not to divide his audience the way politicians have managed to divide the nation, Ianucci’s scathing indictment of the ineptitude of the Washington establishment makes no mention of party or ideological affiliation.
While Julie Louise-Dreyfus’ Vice-President might be a callow, self-serving, dim-bulb brunette, this is no Palin knock-off. With the President never seen, or even heard from the target of Ianucci’s ire is, as it was in Britain, the absurdity of a political system replete with all the moral cowardice and overriding self-interest that has seemingly high-jacked the halls of power on both sides of the Atlantic. To quote a random senator musing on the VP’s chances of obtaining sponsors for her legacy-building Filibuster Reform Bill: “Trying to get a reform bill through the very body it is designed to reform is like trying to convince a man to fist himself.” Quite.
American politics has always had a little more in common with showbiz than it does back in Blighty, and with that in mind Veep is that little bit snazzier, that bit glossier, and more preoccupied with presentation. The drab, grey, closeted interiors that so aptly characterized the British original simply wouldn’t suit here. Of course, no career politician would be complete without an entourage of Washington lifers and Ianucci duly obliges.
Anna Chlumsky, yes, My Girl herself, gives a fine turn as a snappy Congressional aide, Amy Brookheimer. Flanking her are Dan Egan (Reid Scott) as an ambitious wannabe, Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh) as the embittered veteran, and Gary, a sycophantic cretin played to perfection by Arrested Development’s Tony Gale. The swearing might have been toned down, but the machine-gun gag ratio is every bit as rat-a-tat as we have come to expect from Ianucci.
Co-writing and on directing duties, the diminutive Glaswegian builds on the incidental comedy of embarrassment style pioneered by The Office and captures the bubble-dwelling mentality of people whose inflated sense of their own self-worth far outstrips their miniscule ability. The sort of people who refer to a meet-and-greet with the people whose pleasure at which they serve as “normalizing.”
If there is one complaint it is that, thus far, there appears to be no sign of an American equivalent to the original series crown jewel – Malcolm Tucker, the sweary, ball-busting director of communications wielding a Rolodex of insults (“You, Frodo…Ron fucking Weasley…The baby from Erasorhead!”). Should he at any point arrive then HBO surely has another instant classic on their hands. As it stands right now, they just have a very funny comedy, which is enough.