Created by: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Sufe Bradshaw, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole
Leave it to Armando Iannucci, the man behind the critically acclaimed BBC series The Thick of It, to add some genuine humour to the traditional American sitcom without having to copy the popular mockumentary style that has almost become a prerequisite for success (not that there’s anything wrong with that; three of my favourite comedies follow the style, if not more). Veep is a 30 min look into the office of the first female, yet innocuous, American Vice President, Selina Meyer, played with characteristic hilarity by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her fumbling support staff.
What I like: While most critics panned the show’s first season with reason, almost anything Julia Louis-Dreyfus does makes me laugh. From Elaine, to Christine (in a much underrated and under watched series) and now Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus manages to continually transform herself to suit her characters, an almost impossible feat for sitcom actors. The show also brings back a loveable face in Tony Hale, of Arrested Development fame, as Meyer’s “bag man” whose character is pleasantly reminiscent of Buster Bluth. The supporting cast is stacked with eccentric and funny characters who are constantly trying to avoid image catastrophes. It is a winning combination.
What I don’t like: Only through my research did I realize that what made Armando’s The Thick of It, so popular was his flagrant use of profanity that, as one critic put it, turned “swearing into poetry”. He does the same thing here but with a lesser payoff. The f word often substitutes for, or unnecessarily overpowers, a punch line. Perhaps the swearing is supposed to add something to a show that fits cleanly within its genre but it does not distract us from the fact that each episode follows a formula of stock characters finding themselves in compromising situations. However, with the White House as the backdrop the stakes are higher and funnier for each blunder, like a press release photo of a hostage recovery operation that features Meyer distracted by her phone because all the other publishable options were unflattering to the President.
My rating: Julia raises the bar, yet again.
Airs: Sundays on HBO. Season 2 returns June 2.