Veep's third season continued the roll it got on somewhere in the middle of last year, but for me the show still has the fundamental problem of nasty, unlikable characters at its center that are frankly impossible to root for in any way. Which is not to say there's no enjoyment in the deliciously concocted insults and creative ways to form a sentence involving curse words that is Armando Ianucci's specialty, but on the whole what would make Veep better for me would be to always see Selina and her gang of cronies go down, rather than rise up, as in what ultimately happened in the finale.
For most of this season, Selina is campaigning to be president, after last year's revelation that the current (never seen) POTUS will only be serving one term. That leads to all kinds of shenanigans as she promotes her new book and tries to toe the line on hot button issues from abortion to gun control, etc. Most of these episodes were at least somewhat amusing and the expanded Jonah character became even more cartoonish this year as the writers had him fired from the White House and had to figure out all kinds of ways they could still keep him around on the show, to varying degrees of unbelievability. From his website hit and bust to the reveal that he's an important donor's nephew, Timothy Simons is totally game for whatever they throw at him, including spouting some of the most ridiculous verbal gymnastics known to man, especially in his ongoing rivalry with Dan (Reid Scott) who Selina briefly promoted to campaign manager this year. But Jonah for me is a character for whom a little goes an awful long way, and he's also nowhere near the person who brings the most laughs to the show, so I continue to be slightly puzzled as to why he's been deemed indispensable in the writer's room.
The rest of the supporting cast was great this year, continuing to turn in snappy, lively performances, but as usual for me the best characters are the ones that show even the slightest bit of humanity, like Tony Hale's hapless assistant Gary, and Matt Walsh (really good this year) as communications officer Mike McClintock, who's wary of the constant campaigning and would prefer to spend time with his new wife Wendy (Kathy Najimy). Dan, Amy (Anna Chlumsky), and Ben (Kevin Cafferty) are soulless cretins that I can more often than not live without, but Christopher Meloni had a hilarious guest run this year as Ray, the idiotic personal trainer who attempts to take over the campaign. And once again as Selina Meyer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a wonder of comedic timing, derision, cluelessness and self-absorption, turning in a terrific performance of an absolutely despicable character who should never in a million years be in the highest position of power in the United States. And this, I think, is where my ultimate disconnect lies, and why I don't think I could ever truly love Veep, even though I do usually laugh at the dialogue and appreciate the spastic performances.
I love to see Selina fail and fall down, walk through glass doors and give horrifically disastrous interviews, while the team of idiots around her despairs at her (and their own) situation of ultimate hopelessness. But I never want to see her succeed and this season actually gave her several victories in her climb up the ladder that is ultimately nothing but a catastrophe for the people she's supposed to serve. Sure, Selina's happy, but does she deserve to be? And worse, does the country deserve it? (Ok, so maybe most voters really are stupid enough to deserve the worst). In the finale, the POTUS resigned, effectively elevating Selina to the highest office in the land, and while JLD gave a wonderful five minute, effusive and disbelieving reaction at hearing what just happened, the completely self-serving nature of her every move and total lack of empathy for any person or belief in any principle can't help but make my skin crawl and that's why I can never root for her, and always find it funnier and more desirable to see her fail, rather than actually handing her the reigns of power. It's horrifying, even in the fictional Veep universe.
So, in a way, Veep for me has the same problem as House of Cards (they even had the same ending this year, funnily enough). I just don't want to see these horrible people ascend, and giving Selina that victory just isn't as funny as say, forcing her to run for VP again. And sure, she may still lose the primaries and be forced to be a sitting president running as someone else's running mate (which I admit would be pretty hilarious, and if the show does that next year it wins me back), but I just think the joke should always be on her, because it's much harder to find the funny in the victories of detestable characters than it is to revel in their incompetence. Just look at Sarah Palin for proof. Sure she's a walking joke now, but how funny would it have been if she'd actually won? Think about that for a second.