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article imageReview: VEEP's cutting take on the second highest office in the land

By Mindy Peterman     Apr 20, 2012 in Entertainment
Armando Iannucci's comedy takes us into the inner workings of the vice presidency, which will surprise, amuse and occasionally make you cringe.
The new HBO series VEEP opens on vice-president Salina Meyer (Julia Louis Dreyfus) and her staff doing the “walk and talk” down a bustling White House corridor (conversing enroute as the steadicam tracks them down a long, contiguous set). The “walk and talk” is, of course, a tip of the hat to The West Wing, where Aaron Sorkin regularly used this filming technique to move the story forward and illustrate how busy his characters were.
VEEP is not The West Wing but it is a sharp parody of the political system, particularly the office of the vice president. Dreyfus’s Meyer is a smart lady but somewhat overwhelmed and bemused by her powerful office. As the next in line for the presidency, she has enormous responsibility but is also depicted as being a powerless pawn and, on occasion, a laughing stock. She seems to spend a whole lot of time smoothing over messes she or her staff have created. That said, the show is amusing if you don’t mind those uncomfortable politically incorrect moments it tosses out.
It should come as no surprise that the creator and executive producer of the show is Armando Iannucci, who was Oscar nominated for In the Loop but who I equate more with the brilliant Steve Coogan UK series Knowing Me, Knowing You and I’m Alan Partridge, where he was a writer. Hints of that brash, cringe inducing humor is certainly evident in VEEP.
In an interview included with the HBO press release, Iannucci has this to say about the eight episode series: "VEEP is not about someone who is not good at their job, it’s about someone with considerable talents, who is in a situation that increasingly becomes more and more ridiculous. The vice presidency is a role that is so full of potential and so close to power and yet, depending on what the president feels about you, you can do everything or nothing, right? You’re entirely there at the behest of the president, and yet at any moment, you can suddenly be the most powerful person in the world.
“Selina has also had a whole history of being in politics. She’s a former senator with a good deal of power and influence, so suddenly to go from there, to having a huge office and huge staff, but not really knowing what your days consist of, is a strange psychological twist.”
Sarah Palin, anyone?
“You’ll never see the president,” Ianucci continues, “or hear what party he’s in. The whole show is really about the process of how the White House deals with Congress, and fundraising as this perpetual machine, the whole business of dealing with the media and travel, and having someone like the vice president having to change their policies. You could be campaigning in the primaries on one policy, but if you become vice president, you actually have to ditch that policy and advocate the policy of your boss, the president, and that can be difficult, as well. I want to give the viewer an insight into how the real D.C. works. I think most portrayals of Washington are either as it being this very noble, virtuous place, or a corrupt, malign place, when, in fact, it’s really somewhere in the middle.”
VEEP premieres on April 22 at 10 PM on HBO.
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