April 7, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Veep”


VEEP:  Sunday 10:30PM on HBO

VEEP, television’s most scintillatingly vicious comedy, returned with a relatively mild Season 3 premiere by its standards.  Largely that was because the script, written by Supervising Producers Sean Grey and Will Smith (from a story also by series creator Armando Iannucci) and directed by Chris Addison, kept Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) geographically distant from her staff of idiots, marooned on a tour to plug her book “Some New Beginnings” (not a Star Wars reference, as one fan learned to his disappointment).  Not accidentally, the tour had taken her to Iowa, a good place to plot the surreptitious start of her Presidential race, which would  kick in once the current President officially announced his intention not to run for reelection, a decision revealed in the Season 2 finale.  Without her underlings, Selina had no one to insult but an anonymous staffer there to help on the tour.

Her staff, meanwhile, was gathered for a blessed occasion:  the wedding of chief of staff Mike (Matt Walsh) to former reporter Wendy (Kathy Najimy).  As much as they occasionally pretended to care about the nuptials, really Amy (Anna Chlumsky), Dan (Reid Scott) and Gary (Tony Hale) were mostly concerned with the couple’s demand that all cell phones be placed on ice for the duration of the ceremony, which was like cutting them off from both oxygen and blood.  (Most of them had hidden back-up phones for just such an emergency.)  The wedding was crashed by Jonah (Timothy Simons), the White House liaison with the Veep’s office and the one person hated by every single other character on the show.  Jonah provided the main story development of the week when his excited upload of a photo to his supposedly secret “gossiptainment” blog about life in the White House both forced the President’s hand in announcing the decision not to run again and got Jonah fired, to the glee of all onlookers.  (One imagines that Veep will find a way to keep such a productive source of insult comedy around.)

That means that the Meyer For President campaign is officially on, which should give Veep many storylines for the upcoming season.  Already Dan and Amy are jockeying to be named Selina’s campaign manager, when she’d prefer to jilt both of them and hire someone competent.  (Selina’s contribution to Mike’s wedding was repurposing–barely–a speech she’d made a few hours earlier at a Congressman’s funeral.)

Veep has absolutely no interest in warmth or the likability of its characters, and it’s a bracingly nasty piece of work.  At times its insistence on relying on nothing but awkward missteps and cynicism can get monotonous, but at its best, it’s riotously mean-spirited.  (Selina’s reaction upon hearing of the President’s announcement and Jonah’s firing:  “All my orgasms have come at once.”)  The cast is sensationally good at keeping the ball of their shared rancor and bitterly unfulfilled ambitions in the air, led by Louis-Dreyfus, who can heap insults with the best of them.

Veep has never been a blockbuster hit for HBO, but it has a solid viewership (last night’s premiere, with the move to 10:30PM, was somewhat down from the previous season), and both the show and Louis-Dreyfus are Emmy favorites.  The presidential campaign should provide all new and ugly ways for Selina and her staff to screw things up and them blame each other, good news for fans of the hilarity of awfulness.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."