For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of enjoying In the Loop, a British comedy from Armando Iannucci, based on the series The Thick of It set in British government, finally the writer and director is bringing his comedic stylings to American politics. Julia Louis-Dreyfus continues her run as the second most successful cast member from Seinfeld to keep her career going strong with the HBO comedy series Veep. If Aaron Sorkin was a little more of a natural comedic writer, he would have written Veep instead of The West Wing. However, the political satire seems to be a bit less prevalent than the situational comedy, making it slightly less witty, but still very smart. Read my full take on the series premiere of Veep after the jump.
The best thing about those with any opinion on politics is that this film does not take aim at any particular party on either side of the aisle. In fact, Louis-Dreyfus has said herself that you will never be able to figure out which party with which her Vice Presidential character Selina Meyer actually sides. The comedy instead mostly comes from Meyer’s scrambling staff composed of Anna Chlumsky (My Girl all grown up), Reid Scott (a smarmy up and comer, and shoe-in as a future politician), Tony Hale (you can imagine Buster Bluth heading into the U.S. government in this day and age) and Matt Walsh (seemingly the oldest person on staff, but not the smartest) as they all seem to disappoint Meyer at every turn, even when they succeed.
With overlapping dialogue, and phenomenal chemistry, the writing feels completely natural and thus the jokes are inherently funny, rather than being set up and waiting for a punchline. Some of the walk-and-talks are a little rough around the edges, but the fast pacing doesn’t make it all that obvious. There’s definitely an Arrested Development meets The West Wing feel to Veep. The characters aren’t quite as despicable as the Bluth family, but there’s certainly not a stand out to trust any of them as a good person, especially the meandering White House staffer Jonah (Timothy Simons), always wandering over from the West Wing to cause problems and make everyone uncomfortable.
Louis-Dreyfus is better than ever as a charismatic vice president, swearing like a sailor one minute and glad-handing politicians the next, and she doesn’t even have to impersonate Sarah Palin to pull it off. At times it almost feels like it’s Elaine from Seinfeld became president, and that’s not bad. However, that also means that at times, it’s hard to believe that someone with so many missteps in just the span of a few episodes (HBO sent us the first three) would be just a heartbeat away from becoming the leader of the free world, but that’s democracy for you, I suppose.
Of course, the supporting cast is just as important. It’s Timothy Simons as Jonah taking a similar role that Zach Woods (Gabe from The Office) had in Iannucci’s In the Loop, who shines as the resident creepy staffer, who is coincidentally quite eager to get in the pants of the Amy, the chief of staff played swimmingly by Anna Chlumsky (who also starred in Iannucci’s aforementioned film). Meanwhile, her bodyman Gary (Tony Hale), seems to take a licking as quite a feminine man, but not to the point of it being over-the-top and obvious. Dan Egan is one of the most charismatic faces to look out for, and might shake things up on the staff as a sneaky little weasel who is more concerned with furthering his own career than bolstering the Vice President’s (unless it helps him in some way). Finally, Matt Walsh continues the great comedic supporting work he’s been known for in countless films like Old School, The Hangover, Role Models and much more.
This cast combines to bring keep HBO’s comedy slate fresh in the wake of the departed (but tired) conclusion of Entourage and the series finale of Eastbound & Down. It’s good to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus continue to break the Seinfeld curse with another great series like this, a political comedy that brings laughs so effortlessly, and without the crutch of divisive political commentary in the form of comedy. Iannucci proves that he has a gift for snappy and smart dialogue, and a fast-paced comedy that almost rivals the speed with which 30 Rock fires off jokes. It’s not as nonsensical and makes more out of subtle humor than silliness, but this spectacular comedy should be around for awhile.