Did you catch this past Sunday’s Season 3 premiere of the funniest show on television?
Veep is a show that took a while to find its balance. Season 1 was crass and abrasive, without a lot to say about today’s political climate and with no clear indication of party affiliation. As created by Armando Iannucci, it felt like an outsider’s uninformed perspective on American politics. But, from the beginning one thing was certain – Julia Louis-Dreyfuss was the reason to tune in, even if the rest of the cast didn’t immediately gel with her manic subtleties or astute political aloofness. If those descriptions sound in opposition with one another it is because Veep is a show all about the dichotomy of the absurd, or, more succinctly, the skewering of the broken political system in practice in the USA and the idiot geniuses we elect to run it. It’s true, the show mostly stays away from hot-button political subjects, but it doesn’t need them to get its point across. Instead, just like a good politician it relies on side-stepping questions, talking around issues, and extensive use of seeming improvisation. Season 2 was a revelation in the coming together of characters, the broadening of the narrative, and the smart way in which it painted both democrats and republicans alike as buffoons drunk with misguided power. Season 3 appears well on its way to surpassing anything yet seen in the continued adventures of Vice President Selina Meyer.
Sunday night’s premiere picked up a mere three months after the end of last season, where Selina learned that the President would not seek reelection — leaving room for her to attain the Democratic nomination. The start of the episode finds Selina in full-on campaign mode (even if she isn’t able to make a formal announcement yet), with her doing a book signing tour of a political memoir she didn’t even write entitled “Some New Beginnings: Our Next American Journey”. Her usual team of misfits are attending Mike and Wendy’s wedding, leaving her a substitute staffer with little on the job experience or apparent intelligence (which is saying something when compared to this motley crew). The President’s Chief of Staff, Ben Cafferty, shows up while in route to a congressman’s funeral to inform Selina of a potential high-profile pick for her campaign manager who will also be in attendance. And so it is off to a big government funeral, where Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets to flex her comic muscles with an on-the-spot eulogy for the deceased congressman focused mostly on his fly-fishing skills. It is the kind of moment that Dreyfus plays best with just the right amount of condescending sincerity to cut through all the BS.
What is immediately clear is the show’s continued commitment to expanding its scope with this particular episode cutting between numerous locations and plot points. It has certainly come a long way from the comparatively claustrophobic setting of the Vice President’s office in the first season. Now viewers get to visit the White House, the campaign trail, a wedding, and a funeral all in one episode without sacrificing the show’s biting wit or losing any impact from its colorful ensemble — and what an ensemble it is. Even when he’s hundreds of miles away, Tony Hale’s Gary continues to be a put-upon saint as Selina’s committed puppy-dog personal aide. Anna Chlumsky’s Amy and Reid Scott’s Dan remain competitive scheming adversaries playing for the same team. And Matt Walsh’s director of communications Mike steadfastly holds his place as a useless lovable loser. Newcomer Jayson Williams gets his chance to shine as the aforementioned untested new staffer who fails miserably to fill Gary’s shoes. In the first season it appeared that Dreyfus was a whirlwind performer that no one could keep up with; now she is part of a cohesive whole that lives and dies by the strengths of its players.
By the end of the episode, thanks to some political backhanding, Selina looks to be in a prime position to announce her candidacy for the democratic nomination for President of the United States. Watching her and her nonfunctional team attempt this roadshow is going to take the comedy to some new and exciting places where hilarity will no doubt ensue. With each new season Veep continues to surprise, with its insight into the insanity that is American politics and the bloated egos that keep the wheels of the train barely turning. According the show’s timeline it will be two years before the next presidential election. Hopefully that means we will get at least another two years of airtime to hang out with Vice President Selina Meyer and her staff of dimwits. Though, seeing her as President would be a delight that could only exist in sitcom heaven – kind of like a perverse West Wing. But for now, just know that Veep is back and better than ever.