Television: Veep Season Two – Diplomatic Impunity, Or Not-Potus With The Mostest

August 5, 2014



Veep: The Complete Second Season / Created by Armando Iannucci / 16L


I don’t like politics. It’s boring. And the parts that aren’t boring are broken. Lies, corruption, greed, theft and bad outfits. And that’s just the interns.

Television politics is often better. Aaron Sorkin made politicians seem smart. He allowed them to multi-task; to walk and talk at the same time; to form relationships based on more than the usefulness of contacts; to chip in with immaculately phrased one-liners as they pressed buttons that set off explosions in alleged terrorist hide-outs. I would have voted for his characters had that been a possibility.

Still, there’s only so much intelligent governance one can take before the realisation that real leaders aren’t as strong as Josiah Bartlett kicks in and you spend each day driving past newspaper posters and wondering why your elected representatives can’t be more like a group of avatars who don’t exist.

That’s not a healthy place to be. Especially when you know that The West Wing is done, and it’s not coming back.

A like-for-like substitute wouldn’t have been a great idea, though. Too much of a good thing would, among other things, suggest that there is enough positive material for writers to draw on (yes it’s fiction, but the research is done in real places) and if that was true, there’d be so much less to moan about.

All of this helps Veep to fit the gap left behind beautifully

It has mocked its protagonists mercilessly from the start. Indeed Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character Selina Meyer’s status as the Vice President is an ongoing slight. It’s regarded as a largely ceremonial role by everyone except the Veep herself, and perhaps her awkwardly loyal bag-man Gary Walsh, played by Tony Hale.

Having to sustain a career supporting a living, breathing punchline is a challenge, a task handled with fantastically awkward panache by a supporting cast big enough to remind viewers that real politicians are constantly wasting their tax money as they relax in front of the television.

The counterpoint to this is provided by Gary Cole being, essentially Gary Cole as Kent Davison, the high-powered White House staffer who aims to pick up Meyer’s mess before she makes it, as well as the cleverly written plot corners that can’t be easily joked out of.

Those moments of gravity are necessary to add balance to the whole affair, but it’s usually the jokes that win. Precise, carefully weighted jibes come up against profoundly satisfying sarcasm and cutting wit in just about every moment of each episode. When the dialogue’s not making you grin, it’s making you shake your head in admiration, and new platforms for the cut-and-thrust repartee are created in consistently unexpected ways. Two memorable examples involve a transparent glass door appearing unexpectedly in Selena’s path and the Veep having to comment on matters pertaining to orthodox Jewish communities while standing in front of a whole roasting pig – on live TV (it sounds crass, but it’s beautifully orchestrated).

I still don’t like politics. At best, it’s a necessary evil, but I often require convincing about the “necessary” part.

But when clever, sensitive funny people put words in the mouths of imaginary leaders and give comedy treasure Julia Louis-Dreyfus the chance to give their scripts life, I can just about manage.

Season Three, please. Before the next elections.