She’s pow­er­less, ir­rel­e­vant... and very funny

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

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.

HBO

Louis-drey­fus: ap­peal­ingly un­lik­able

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