From a Sunday magazine cover piece to Page One stories and blogs posts, I feel like I have been writing about the new HBO satire "VEEP" for at least a year.
But the series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, a former senator who becomes vice president of the United States, doesn't debut until Sunday. I've been writing about it so much because this rich and daring series from Armando Iannucci is Maryland made.
So, everyone knows what I think about "VEEP." I love the performance by Louis-Dreyfus, who takes great risks and nails comedic nuances that most TV actors never get within shouting distance of intheir careers.
Furthermore, I believe this dark satire speaks to the kamikaze gridlock and suicidal partisan madness of our nation's political life today like few pop culture texts have ever spoken to the politics of their times.
As I wrote last week:
Iannucci focuses his comedic attention on the gridlock, lack of vision, and sweaty-palmed fear that grips our national politics these days, and as I watched, I realized that for the first time in months, I wasn't feeling quite so desperate, angry and depressed about the state of government and the civic life of the nation today.
It was a little like a good meditation exercise about five minutes in when you start to feel the 10,000 things in your head that are making you crazy quiet down and move away from the center of your brain for a bit.
You can read the full post here.
Now here's what some other critics are saying about the series:
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter:
Louis-Dreyfus has found perhaps her best post-Seinfeld role and takes to it with such fervor — the constant swearing, the barely veiled desire to become president, the unhappy give-and-take with other politicians and a delightful disdain for average citizens — that you can't help but applaud what is clearly an Emmy-worthy effort.
Her work alone makes Veep a gem, but there's even more to like. Meyer's team includes chief of staff Amy (Anna Chlumsky of In the Loop), tasked to put out endless fires; right-hand-and-body man Gary (Tony Hale of Arrested Development), who basically lives on the veep's shoulders whispering tidbits in her ear about people she meets: "Wife, not daughter; wife, not daughter!" "Plays the trumpet." "He's got a glass eye"; jaded-and-losing-it press spokesman Mike McClintock (Matt Walsh), who pretends to have a dog so he won't have to stay late at the office or go on boring trips (everyone calls the dog a bullshitzu ...
Every actor nails their lines, which keeps Veep moving at a brisk pace. In fact, the episodes seem to end so quickly, you'll wish they lasted an hour.
The headline summary from Hollywood Reporter:
HBO's latest gem is a raw, fast-paced political comedy that gives Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the rest of the cast a chance to really shine.
Carina Chocano, New York Times Magazine:
Every decade gets the political show it deserves, or thinks it deserves, though some decades are pretty disingenuous. "The West Wing" gave us an idealized account of the Clinton era, with a saintly president and high-minded pols. In the '00s, "24" offered an ultraparanoid version of the Bush era that legitimized torture as the primary means of dealing with a world in a constant state of crisis.
"Veep," by contrast, comes not to justify Caesar but to goose him. It captures our post-Reagan, post-Clinton, post-Bush, 24-hour tabloid news and Internet-haterade dystopia, and reflects our collective queasy ambivalence toward a political system that we fear simply reflects our own shallowness back at us. If "The West Wing" was a fantasy of hyper-competence, "Veep" is its opposite: a black-humor vision of politics at its bleakest, in which both sides have been co-opted by money and special interests and are reduced to posturing, subterfuge, grandstanding and photo ops. Naturally, it's hilarious...
… There's something about Selina that's also inescapably familiar. It has to do with her combination of intelligence and petulance, self-confidence and neuroticism, narcissism and charm. In many ways, Selina is the quintessential Julia Louise-Dreyfus character: a power-suited version of Elaine from "Seinfeld."
Bob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly:
The F-word flies out of somebody's mouth a remarkable 27 times during the 30-minute first episode of the corrosively cynical and very funny political comedy Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a vapid and hapless vice president named Selina Meyer, who drops such elegant turns of phrase as ''pencil f---ed'' and ''f---tard'' and ''I need a s---.'' The West Wing this is not.
Charmingly goofy as ever, Louis-Dreyfus isn't quite believable as a vice president — even a sitcom VP whose lack of gravitas is the show's central joke. But she's still a joy to watch, especially when she shows off that famous gift for physical comedy.
... "A bleak vision of American political folly (that) would be pretty depressing if it weren't so amusing."
Matt Zoller Seitz, New York magazine:
As Selina, a former senator, Louis-Dreyfus draws on her loopy, self-involved Seinfeld persona but adds hints of cynicism and brittleness. Everyone around Selina is likewise selfish and image-obsessed. This is a shark-tank world of a type that HBO specializes in; the ego-warring over perks, loyalty, and respect might remind you of the cable channel's other classic half-hour studies in bad behavior: The Larry Sanders Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the brilliant, short-lived Lisa Kudrow vehicle The Comeback.
But the first three episodes of Veep don't suggest we're going to see those series' depth and poignancy. Iannucci has a tactically limited view of political skulduggery, the type showcased in the insufferably cutesy columns of Maureen Dowd. It's all rather weightless: just your usual sitcom-style misunderstandings and bruised egos and "complications ensue," with no sense that anything larger is at stake...
That's not a bad thing in and of itself—the world can always use one more amusing sitcom—but for all its madcap goofiness, Veep doesn't say or add up to much—which, in a way, suggests it's the right satire for a political era marked by stupid feuds, inertia, and superficiality.
Matt Richental, TV Fanatic:
Veep is seriously funny, but it manages to include political undertones as well. There's noting overt, nothing that would offend either the Left or Right, just sly commentary on how staffers place importance on the flavor of ice cream the Vice President should choose when making a public appearance, while also referring to interactions with voters as "normalizing."
Like The West Wing, we're also treated to quick dialogue and storylines based on corn starch, big oil and filibusters. None of it is dumbed down for the audience, but none of it plays a central role in the jokes or for the characters, either, for those uninterested in such capitol details.
Overall, Veep is one of the more intelligent comedies on TV. It features a great cast and characters that are taken to the extreme, yet never come across as caricatures. They're simply trying, and mostly failing, to be good at their jobs.