REVIEW: "Veep" Season 2

As far as I was concerned, Armando Iannucci's Veep had a lot to live up to. Coming off the hilariously pointed BBC series The Thick of It, which spawned an equally great spin-off movie In the Loop, I really thought there was no way an Americanized version of this very British political universe could work, especially coming from the same mind. That's not an insult, I was just utterly convinced of his specific knowledge of the ins and outs of UK politics and feared that his innate foul-mouthed, witty and particular dialogue would never sound right coming out of the mouths of Americans who work in the White House. We may all speak English but our cultures still harbor very distinct differences (especially in attitudes), and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The last thing I wanted to see was a dumbed down version of The Thick of It.

So while the first season of Veep had its moments, my fears weren't entirely alleviated. The exploits of vice president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her cohorts in the halls of Washington, D.C. often felt like a paler imitation of its predecessor, and while Iannucci can sling the word "fuck" around in ways that can't help but amuse (he's like a Picasso who specializes in swearing), it did feel at times to me like the inherent meanness and insults coming from and towards every single character just weren't very American.

Still, Julia Louis-Dreyfus' performance made the show worth sticking with- she's a fearlessly talented comedienne who can make just about anything funny, whether it's slapstick, verbal insults, embarrassment, sometimes shifting between them all in one scene. She embodies this incompetent veep fully, and can handle anything the carefully crafted scripts throw at her, and with some deftly ad-libbed jabs of her own as well.

Dreyfus won a well-deserved Emmy for Lead Actress last year, and will likely win one again for the second season, which I'm happy to say was a big improvement on the first as a whole, with the secondary cast seemingly finding its footing. While the first season was focused on domestic side issues Selina was helplessly shoved into, the focus shifted this year to foreign policy and involved the veep more directly in the White House. It even coincidentally mirrored a timely storyline involving overseas spies and the CIA. Every politically themed show or movie is enhanced by some recognition of reality within the fictional universe, something The Thick of It understood well, by directly mirroring scandals and party shifts within Parliament.

By involving the veep more directly in the White House it suddenly feels contemporary (Joe Biden may be seen as a goofy, but we haven't actually had an uninvolved, outsider veep since Al Gore), and the increased group dynamic among Selina's aides, plus the softening of a couple of characters who are made to seem more human (especially Tony Hale, who's great as Selina's utterly devoted lackey) immediately connects as more recognizable American comedy and characters. Happily, the show manages to accomplish this without losing any of the biting Iannucci wit, and added to the great central performance from JLD, it's a show that just keeps getting better as you watch. I'm all in.

Grade: B+


Bonus Recommendation- you really should watch The Thick of It if you haven't seen it, or at least In the Loop. Malcolm Tucker is a legendary TV character they were wise not to even try emulating for Veep- a political spin doctor played with insane, electric energy and timing from Scottish actor Peter Capaldi. Seriously, no one should be deprived of seeing this performance. Seek it out. He's incredible.