There’s no doubt that Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the lead in a comedy about as a less-than-perfect Vice President of the United States and her not-so-put-together staff would be interesting to watch. What I did not expect going into the pilot was how smart it was. From one episode alone, I was enraptured by the incredibly sharp and biting wit in the writing. Pair that with the likes of Upright Citizen Brigade‘s Matt Walsh and Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale, and you’ve got yourself a downright fantastic workplace sitcom.
It’s really hard to get situational comedy right. And yet, Veep carried out the plot line of the first episode with surprising ease. I am pretty sure I haven’t laughed that hard and that consistently at a half-hour comedy (a pilot, no less) in a very long time. I was on my toes the entire 30 minutes, eager to catch each vague and unintentional joke.
Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, a presidential hopeful who later became a running mate for another candidate when her own campaign went south. She has several members on her staff who are meant to advise her, but really serve as much of the comedic effect for the show.
One thing I loved even before watching the pilot was that a) we never meet the actual president and b) the show never specifies which political party Meyer belongs to. Instead, the show revolves around the small mishaps and often cringe-worthy interactions between fellow members of political office in Washington D.C. I thought this was a brilliant idea because not only does it eliminate much of the expected criticism that comes with party politics, but it also leaves a lot of room for creativity since political affiliation is not actually discussed in the show. All we really know is that Meyer and her staff support a “Clean Jobs Commission” and wish to see it through to Congress, and then to the POTUS himself.
Meyer’s staff provides a lot of rapid back-and-forth, and they often rag on each other in hilarious ways. Her chief of staff Amy (Anna Chlumsky) seems to be a woman with her wits about her and is both ambitious and independent. Spokesperson Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) definitely knows his way around politics and the media, and often serves up a biting comment or sarcastic remark. Right-hand man Gary (Tony Hale) is essentially the comic relief, as well as the show’s punching bag. He is by Selina’s side at all times, offering her hand sanitizer, coffee, and specialized sweeteners all before she can even turn around to ask for it. And Executive Assistant Sue acts as the VP’s glorified assistant, taking calls and arranging meetings. Sue provides the running joke of the pilot episode that involves Selina asking periodically whether the president has called (to which Sue periodically responds that he hasn’t).
The show does well to highlight Meyer’s position of power and her obvious measure of political knowledge, and then goes on to show her many missteps and inability to exactly find her footing in Washington. I found this intriguing because, instead of immediately establishing the fact that she doesn’t have her wits about her, we first learn that she is indeed smart and does on some level deserve to hold this high position. After constructing this image of Meyer, the writers immediately begin to break it down. But more than using the show as a platform for feminist rights and the depiction of women in power, the writers have instead established a story about the pressure of power, and then used that to create comedic and relatable situations in a completely serious and unrelatable setting.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the first two episodes of Veep. Much to my delight, the second episode remained consistent in its format of comedy and did not lose ground in terms of character or plot development. I absolutely cannot wait for this show to get on people’s radar. It’s clear that right off the bat it came into its own as a fresh and exciting idea, so it’s only a limited time before it gets recognized for the true potential it has. Let us simply hope that viewer ratings are high enough to keep this fascinating show from receiving the terrible fate of cancellation.
Did you watch Veep? What were your reactions to the pilot? Let us know!