Armando Iannucci's Veep has arrived on British shores, replacing the cinéma vérité, political satire window that has been left empty by his previous work, The Thick Of It.
Set in the Old Executive Office Building in Washington DC, Veep provides us with an amusing window into the inner sanctum of the Vice President's Office. The incredibly dysfunctional Vice-President, Selina Meyer, is an individual obsessed with her image and popularity as well as carving out a legitimate legacy, much to the distaste of the ever-absent President. One of her main preoccupations is the passage of the Clean Jobs Act and filibuster reform, two pieces of legislation that are ultimately derailed by various issues and problems. Her staff's attempts to woo Senators and lobbyists deliver many of the series comical moments, as well as providing us with an insight into how the legislative branch operates.
The series highlights the ineffectiveness of her staff, with mini-dramas including the inappropriate use of Twitter, a staffer signing her own name instead of the VP's on a condolence card, and the 'reassignment' of a Secret Service Agent. It is perhaps Meyer's relationship with the absent President of United States that is the most interesting. Over time, we see his influence on his deputy commanding the upper hand, leading to Meyer declaring, "he is busting my lady-balls here." The VP is left out of fiscal briefings, asked to stand in at low-key fundraisers and even asked to head up a much hated obesity task force. In one episode, Meyer is rushed from a meeting to the Situation Room when she is told the President is experiencing severe chest pains. For a brief moment she is Leader of the Free World, but her dream ends when it transpires the President only had indigestion. Meyer always asks if the President has called, but unfortunately for her, he never does.
The insight into Vice President Meyer's personal life is particularly touching, and on more than one occasion I really felt for the character. Meyer's daughter makes an appearance in Episode Three, and whilst she appears to be unfazed by her mother's role, we quickly learn that their relationship is one of absence and reality. Meyer's guilt over her daughter comes to a head in the Season Finale, where her very public tears are manipulated by staffers Amy and Mike for a television interview and party fundraiser. Meyer's love life is similarly empty until the arrival of an influential Washington DC lawyer. Their brief affair results in an unwelcome pregnancy, and a hastily planned wedding over the telephone. This however, is not to last, with Meyer experiencing a miscarriage and asking body-man Gary to dump her lover on her behalf.
Almost entirely filmed on a set in Baltimore, Veep is in many ways spookily accurate. The set design depicts offices on Capitol Hill in the manner of which I remember, right down to the Congress branded notepads and high-tech coffee machines. The Vice President's office is what I would expect it to look like, the inner sanctum of a deputy's power, with the crowded staffer pen, and campaign mementos lining the walls.
Julia Louis Dreyfus is the perfect choice to portray the first fictional female Vice President since Mackenzie Allen on Commander in Chief. She is of course perfectly suited to the world of comedy, with her amazingly high stilettos and flawlessly curled hair inspiring many office chic ensembles on both sides of the Atlantic. Dreyfus makes the character real and importantly likeable despite her off the wall rants and dysfunctional manner of thinking. By the end of the first episode you will be aching to watch more, and thankfully, HBO has renewed Veep for a second season. The series is funny, slick and real, and is the best thirty minutes of television you will watch all summer.
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