Two episodes in to The Thick Of It and In The Loop creator Armando Iannucci's Veep and a significant weakness has become a whole lot clearer. At the end of Episode One I opined that the show may be softer than expected due to a lack of a Malcolm Tucker equivalent - look it up on YouTube if you have not yet been exposed to Iannucci's greatest creation - and while that particular edge would still be welcome there is clearly something more fundamental. We're now a full hour into the series - a solid hour of American political satire - and I do not believe that anyone has used the words 'Democrat' or 'Republican' once. That's a problem. It may yet be turned into a strength but right now it's a problem.
Here's the thing about Iannucci's brand of satire. It's not based on political stripe, particularly. Should you watch his earlier UK work you'll very quickly see that it is based on the idea that politicians of all stripes are assholes and surrounded by yes men desperate only to keep their own jobs intact from administration to administration. It's a good point to make and he makes it well but there does come a point - a point where, say, you've got the Vice President of the United States of America trying to wrangle votes for a controversial Senate bill - where not acknowledging how incredibly polarized American politics are rings incredibly false and becomes distracting. You may want to focus on other issues, sure, but surely you can't ignore the partisanship entirely, can you? Iannucci seems to be giving precisely that the old college try and I worry that doing so may undercut the whole affair.
But enough of what he's not talking about because there's still plenty to like in this sophomore outing, with plenty of the sharply observational writing that is Iannucci's trademark. There's a bug going around the administration and when it wipes out a two hour meeting later in her day, VP Selina Meyer takes the opportunity to 'normalize'. Yes, it's time to meet the people. At a frozen yoghurt shop. But then the president is struck by a maybe-heart attack and all plans are abandoned in a heartbeat. Can Meyer dare hope that this means a permanent promotion?
When Iannucci is on his game his material works on multiple levels and that is beginning to be the case here. On the most surface level there are the obvious punch lines and the big gags. A sneeze in the face. Vomit. An old lady taking too long in the bathroom, etc etc. But once you get over the obvious giggles he starts throwing sharper jabs at more serious topics. Meyer is, after all, a woman who can only advance if the President dies. Should she - as his primary support - be happy when he falls ill? Because she certainly is. And, in what seems like it's going to be a major driver of the characters, there is a definite age gap showing amongst the staff with Meyer blindly grasping at the latest catch phrases without understanding a word of what they mean, assuming they mean anything at all.
For reliable one liners and amoral cynicism - both Iannucci trademarks - keep an eye on Reid Scott as Dan Egan as he continues to establish himself as the most reliable source of those while Tony Hale handles the neurosis and physical comedy.
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