VEEP: A REFLECTION ON HBO’S INGENIOUS POLITCAL SATIRE

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HBOWatch is the premier unofficial site for all HBO content. Nothing of historical or current Home Box Office news slips under the radar of our staff.  Yet, readers may ask: Why is there a lack of coverage on comedies such as Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, Tracey Ullman’s Show, and Veep?  Due to the sporadic storytelling techniques of these programs, it is rather difficult to provide consistent and coherent coverage on satirical and sketch-based programming. Regarding Veep, the series has garnered 17 Emmy Awards, 4 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and 3 Writers Guild Awards. The series is not a laugh-out-loud tour de force romp such as Insecure or the outrageously dark humored Barry. Yet, Veep garners its laughs and entertainment value from the ability of its cast to deliver razor-sharp dialogue. With the conclusion of the series on May 12, 2019, HBOWatch reflects on the seven-year run of one of television’s most brilliant comedies.

VEEPS6_poster-300x251There are anecdotal tales from many Presidential Administrations of how bored and uninterested Vice Presidents are with their positions, despite being the governing body of the Senate and Electoral College. One Selina Catherine Meyer (played marvelously by Julia Louis Dreyfus) is the VP at the start of the series up until the end of season three, when she is elected President. Meyer is a despicable character in the sense that the audience will love to hate her. She is not the symbol of diversity and feminism that liberals would want, nor is she of traditional values as conservatives often lean. Selina Meyer is all about Selina Meyer. If one were to research the word ‘selfish’ and all of its known synonyms, Selina would fulfill the primary, secondary, and tertiary definitions. Undoubtedly the Game of Thrones finale’ will be the most talked about conclusion of a television series for 2019.  However, the heartbreaking and gut-wrenching finale’ where Meyer uses the show’s most lovable character to take the fall for her corrupt executive actions, will certainly make critics’ lists for one of television’s best endings.

So why watch a show that centers on such a contemptuous character?  It is because the show manages to satirize and tell the direct truths of politics without making the mistake of ripping openly from current headlines. HBO and original creator/showrunner Armando Iannucci (Seasons 1-4), and eventual showrunner David Mandel culminated over two centuries of American government policies with the vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings of the Meyer administration and her allies and rivals.

VEEP_RetrospectivePiceLike HBO’s Succession and Iannucci previous British political comedy The Thick of It, the series employs a Cinéma vérité style of storytelling. The audience is a fly-on-the-wall experiencing the exploits of Meyer’s inner circle, a motley crew of competent and incompetent persons. The more cynical of the characters are Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer, Deputy Director of communications Dan Egan, and the disliked by even his own immediate family White House liaison Jonah Ryan. Amy and Dan’s brief romance sheds light on the fact that both are too selfish to ever bring children into the world. Ryan is incredibly stupid, going as far as to renounce mathematics as a way for Muslims to promote terrorism in public schools; solely based off of a random teacher of Middle Eastern descent being accused of being a Jihadist based off of weak evidence. The communications director and chief strategists, Ben Caverty and Kent Davison, are walking textbooks obsessed with policy and numbers crunching. Their fixation on polling statistics is shown to negatively influence the President’s decision-making during several episodes throughout the series. Other players in her administration keep the show’s humor and wit level constant, with their personal lives being analogous to the shenanigans of federal politics.

VEEP_Reteospective-294x300The nucleus of the show is Tony Hale’s Gary Walsh. Gary is Selina’s personal aide and body man. A long-term associate and confidant of Selina, Gary is portrayed as incredibly loyal and devoted. Despite his menial job, Gary is actually well-read, a graduate of Cornell University, having majored in hotel management. In the fourth and fifth seasons, Gary is portrayed as having issues adapting to Selina’s presidency since he can no longer be as close to her as previously, due to lack of security clearance. When Selina fails to win reelection, he remains on as her personal aide.  This description of the Gary and President Meyer’s relationship is an insight into one of the few genuine interactions amongst characters. Meyer knows that Gary unconditionally loves her, but that love is unrequited. However, the heartbreaking and gut-wrenching scene where Gary is taken away by federal agents for crimes that his object of personal and professional affection committed in previous seasons, is a scene that should be studied in film classes. Meyer is in the middle of a speech and glances over to see her aid and one true friend being taken from the stage entrance. A look of sadness flashes across Meyer’s face, but is quickly gone as she focuses not on America’s future, but HER future.

The final minutes of the final episode are one for the ages, much like the still lauded ending to Six Feet Under, an HBO gem that ran concurrently with The Sopranos. 24 years later, Selina Meyer passed away at the age of 75, 76, or 77 (there was an ongoing joke about her age that spanned the series), and her funeral procession is being covered. After lying in rest and being paid painfully obligated respects by those she used to get to the Oval Office, President Myer is laid to rest at the Presidential library in her namesake at her undergraduate alma mater. Yale University and her home state of Virginia refused to host her Presidential library due to her unproductive first term as President.  An aged and now free Gary was also present and tells his now deceased boss and betrayer that she would have hated the flowers. The funeral concludes with the burial team hilariously having issues opening the mausoleum door and the coverage of the entire event being dropped for the news of Tom Hank’s death at the age of 88 in 2045. As much as the pretentious Myer wanted to create a legacy, no one gave a damn. But, as an audience we sure did!

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Now original showrunner Iannucci moves on to Avenue 5, a comedy exploring the exploits of a space tourism company set 40 years future. Iannucci had to leave Veep after four seasons, due to the heavy strain of flying from his London home to the United States to work in the writers’ room.  This will not be an issue with Avenue 5, for all production is taking place in the United Kingdom. If Iannucci is able to assemble a stellar writers room as in the case of Veep, this juxtaposed with the amazing cast led by Hugh Laurie (Veep), Josh Gad (Murder on the Orient Express), Zach Woods (Silicon Valley), Nikki-Amuka Bird (Quarry) and Suzy Nakumura (The 40-Year Old Virgin) will continue to demonstrate that HBO’s 30-minute ventures are equal to its renowned 60 minute dramas.


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