She’s powerless, irrelevant... and very funny
AHEARTBEAT away from the most powerful political position in the world. And other than that, a million miles from being relevant.
That pretty much describes the U.S. vicepresidency, and being selected for the job can be a career-deadening turn of events for even the most ambitious — and makebelieve — of American politicians.
Take, for instance, former (fictional) U.S. senator Selina Meyer, the central character (portrayed by Julia Louis-dreyfus) in the new HBO comedy Veep — she’s a capable, intelligent, driven woman who went to Washington with big dreams of accomplishing big, important things... until her party’s leadership asked her to serve as the commanderin-chief’s backup plan.
In Veep, which premieres Sunday night on HBO Canada, the Selina Meyer we meet has clearly been in the vice-presidential job for at least a short while, and the frustration she feels at having her every political ambition either stifled by congressional process or shortcircuited by the desires of the West Wing (and a president who clearly has no interest in her input) has reached the boiling point.
She’s surrounded by bumbling staffers and Starring Julia Louis-dreyfus Sunday night, check listings HBO Canada
out of five sycophantic hangers-on, forced to play nice with elected creeps and sleazeballs, and under constant scrutiny of a tabloid-minded media that’s more interested in concocting a style war between her and the first lady than in any policy position she might try to advance.
And the result of all this is a comedy that’s edgy, quick, more than occasionally profane, and very, very funny.
Selina Meyer isn’t necessarily a likable character, by real-world standards, but when compared to the Washington insiders she faces every day, she actually looks pretty appealing.
In Sunday’s premiere, Vice-president Meyer is championing a rather modest green-minded initiative that would see the plastic utensils used in the Senate cafeteria replaced by more environmentally friendly cornstarch-based spoons and forks.
Of course, we’re dealing with Washington in the gridlocked 21st century, so even something as inconsequential as this runs Selina head-on into politicians looking for tradeoffs and pressure from lobby groups (including the big-oil types).
As she tries to keep her plan on track, she gets pulled into a sticky situation involving the death of a long-serving senator who had a reputation for sexual misconduct. Sign a sympathy card? Craft some completely insincere kind remarks about the departed diddler? It all seems so absurd, and so completely believable in the current political climate.
Selina’s clutch of close advisers includes chief of staff Amy (Anna Chlumsky), who is bright but lacks assertiveness, right-hand “body” man Gary (Tony Hale), whose nerdy know-it-all-ness is both helpful and annoying, media spinner Mike (Matt Walsh), who a bit too old and tired for the current Washington pace, and an ambitious political aide named Dan (Reid Scott), who doesn’t actually work for the vice-president... yet.
Also omnipresent in the VP’S orbit is Jonah (Timothy C. Simons), a gangly, girl-obsessed geek who acts as the official liaison between Selina’s office and the West Wing.
It’s probably quite fitting, for the series’ star, that the brilliance that makes Veep work is the same inspired attitude that made Seinfeld an enduring winner — the ability of its producers and writers to make a bunch of noxious characters with no apparent redeeming qualities a whole lot of fun to spend time with.
If Veep can maintain the furious pace and raw, rude kind of funny that drive its first few episodes, there’s every reason to believe it will serve a second term in HBO’S lineup.
Louis-dreyfus: appealingly unlikable