HBO premiered Veep last night. In the first episode, "Fundraiser," Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine) loses support from Congress for her cornstarch silverware initiative after making a negative comment about plastics, which upsets the oil industry. Her staff is ineffective, at best, and she isn't much better. Soon other gaffes crop up to make things worse. Their one spot of hope is the bright, young Dan Egan (Reid Scott, My Boys, The Big C), who may be a jerk, but would like to work for Selina and help clean up the mess.
In an interview, Louis-Dreyfus said that the president will not be seen, and that which political party the main characters belong to won't be revealed. However, with cornstarch silverware and clean jobs as Selina's main causes, is there any doubt that she leans left?
It's hard to figure out what Veep is. It's a comedy, sure, though the humor is not broad. But is it a situation comedy, where each week the characters will have to deal with a new set of problems? Or is it an ongoing saga, where each new kerfuffle will build on the previous ones, digging the hole deeper and deeper until Selina's career implodes? The latter would be more welcome, and make more sense. "Fundraiser" is a worthy first start to either scenario, but Veep doesn't make its purpose clear in episode one.
Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic. She has been mostly doing loud, slapstick humor for quite awhile. Veep is a change of pace for her, allowing her to demonstrate her skills more thoroughly. Selina is funny for a number of reasons, mostly because of her flaws. This is similar to past characters the actress has embodied. But unlike those others, Selina is mostly calm, keeping her turmoil internal, instead of ranting and raving. And, since Veep airs on HBO, she gets to use naughty language.
The supporting cast of Veep is wonderful, too, full of comedy veterans. The second star below Louis-Dreyfus looks to be Anna Chlumsky (My Girl), who certainly has power over her co-workers, and is a similar mix to Selina of mess and good intentions. Matt Walsh (Hung, Outsourced) is perfect as the bumbling, inept press guy who should probably be out of a job. Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck) goes to the most extreme as Gary Walsh, Selina's human purse and the staff's whipping boy. Timothy C. Simons is Jonah, the arrogant liaison with the president's office, and sort-of villain to the VP's office. Rounding out the cast is Sufe Bradshaw as Sue, Selina's gate keeper, who appears to be best at doing her job.
So the cast is good, and the writing, which is funny, but not the laugh-out-loud kind of funny, is interesting. But overall, since there isn't much sense of direction in "Fundraiser," Veep is beginning its run in the middle of the pack. It's worth watching, sure, but there isn't a lot of excited anticipation for a second episode. Further installments should make its place in the TV landscape a little more clear, but it's a bit disappointing that a judgment must be put off.
Veep airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO. In Lexington, if you subscribe to HBO, it can be found on channel 70 (satellite), 700 (digital cable), and 952 (high definition cable).
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