Veep: Great new comedy that avoids political stigma

By Jeff Mitchell

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The new comedy “Veep” is an HBO release that will leave fans of comedy satisfied.

This new comedy premiered on April 22 and stars Julia-Louis Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States. Most will know Dreyfus from her hallmark role as Elaine on “Seinfeld” – lucky for fans of her former character, her political counterpart maintains the same sharp wit. The show follows Selina and her staff dealing with the political red tape that comes with the position of female vice president. At the heart of the show is the newsroom, which covers all the press that Selina encounters while the crew tries to spin it in one direction or another.

The most appealing aspect of the show is its lack of a political agenda. While the show does focus on a vice president, no one explicitly describes her political persuasion. This allows the audience to focus on the humor and characters and not feel disenfranchised by the Democrat or Republican stigma. What is not absent is a political underbelly atmosphere filled with backstabbing and false promises.

This first episode introduces Meyer trying to garner interest in eliminating plastic utensils and her dealings with local political bodies. Further, at a venue, she uses the term “retard,” which sparks a media firestorm. Things only spin further out of control when a staff member signing for her mistakenly signs her own name on a condolence card. Her staff and crew have to come to her aid to help her resolve the issue before things escalate out of control.

One of the most outstanding characters of the show is Amy’s spokesperson Mike, played by Matt Walsh (founding member of “Upright Citizens Brigade”). Mike has the humor of a quick sucker punch that offers a loud belly laugh in the midst of deep conversation. These jabs quicken the show whenever it seems to be veering away from its core comic pace. His character is a good complement to nearly all the cast – but especially to Dan Egan, who is played by Reid Scott (“My Boys”).

For those fans of “Arrested Development,” Tony Hale plays Gary Walsh, a member of Meyer’s crew. His uncomfortable charm is just as potent, and watching him deal with Dreyfus is a true pleasure. Great moments occur in his angry banter with Egan as well as Jonah Ryan (Timothy C. Simons). Hale’s character is so similar to Buster from “Arrested Development,” we can only hope that he will branch out in a different direction to individualize himself as this new comedy develops.

This show is filled with the perfect dose of cringe-worthy, collar-tugging humor that HBO comedy specializes in. The lack of a laugh track enhances the tone as all that we are left with after an awkward moment is an eerie silence and uncomfortable glances. A great example is the silent aftermath that follows the uncomfortable joke in which Meyer has her crew crowd around her to escape an event unscathed.

Interestingly, “Veep” is not completely definable as a comedy. It has enough depth of political knowledge to not seem slapstick or nonsensical. The cast is so well-rounded that all members have comical skills, and no one really seems to falter or overshadow one another.

The show is created by Armando Lannucci, the man behind “The Thick of It,” a show that follows the British government. He is a veteran of British comedy, snagging 10 various awards for his work.

This strategy of transplanting a British comedy to an overseas environment will immediately remind many of the NBC hit, “The Office,” which has seen massive success with American audiences. While “The Thick of It” has had more success than the original UK version of “The Office,” it will be interesting to see where it goes. A U.S. remake of the series aired in 2007 but was not picked up by ABC and fell to heinous reviews.

“Veep,” however, has been approved for a first season by HBO, so it will be up to clever writing and a dynamic cast to see if this show will go on to a second or face impeachment.

Jeff Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]