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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't cry for the Veep

HBO's Veep rounded up its freshman run with "Tears." Flying to Ohio (where else?) to endorse a gubernatorial candidate, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) learns that her poll numbers are bad. Suddenly, her endorsement is not needed, and in fact, Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl, Community) threatens retribution if Selina does throw her weight behind him. Mike (Matt Walsh) gets the idea that Selina, overly emotional, could save face if she just shows a little emotion, so he manipulates her into crying during an interview. Suddenly, Furlong wants her by his side again. Then he doesn't. Then he does. The he vows vegeance.

Veep is, more than anything, a very smart comedy of errors. Louis-Dreyfus is her typical, brilliant, comedic self in this role, finally allowed to unleash her profanity amid her stumbles, unlike on her network series. No matter how hard Selina tries, nothing goes her way. She often reacts badly to these negative turns of events, but though she does some ugly things, she remains likeable because of Louis-Dreyfus' subtle depth of personality.

The actress, surely an Emmy nominee this year, is surrounded by an absolutely terrific supporting cast, whose characters are mostly as genuine, sympathetic, and bumbling as she is. Mike is an idiot, but he finally has a great idea, which then backfires. Selina orders Amy (Anna Chlumsky) to fix her poll numbers, which Amy takes completely in stride, even if she has no idea where to even begin with that request. This comes a week after Amy willingly takes the fall for her boss, without coming across as a weak-willed toady. Gary (Tony Hale) keeps Selina on task, such as letting her know that she only has four seconds with a hotel manager.

Then there's Dan (Reid Scott). Dan is not yet a fully accepted part of Selina's work family. He deals with Furlong through most of "Tears." At first, Dan supports Selina, but then is willing to betray her when his own reputation is threatened. Looking good at the end of the day, he is excited by his promotion, and issues a press release within seconds, only to see things come crashing down around him. He may seem smooth, but he's just as much a screw up as the rest. His personal agenda, though, makes him less trustworthy than the other, more earnest members of the group. Which is why he stands out, and is so essential to the show.

"Tears" is a wonderful showcase of so many great things about the series. There are fantastic lines, such as Mike talking of tweaking Selina's "tear nipple," and Selina scolding her people for putting her on stage while she is an emotional wreck. This is followed up by Selina' realization that the job is killing her mental state, and she soon loses the ability to cry, a set of circumstances that lets Louis-Dreyfus slay viewers. The wry writ, all around commitment to the characters and premise, and amusing weekly stories, which do not veer into too goofy a territory, make the entire package work beautifully.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is so funny about Veep. There aren't many laugh out loud moments, but rather, a slow build up of fun elements that leave one with an overwhelming feeling of joy. The series did not grab me right away, but each episode drew me further into the story and the characters. Part schadenfreude, part wonder at the talent displayed, each half hour leaves one with an overall sense of entertainment. What more could you ask for in a television show? That's why season two, which will probably reveal the results of Furlong's wrath, should be much anticipated.

Seinfeld curse? What Seinfeld curse?

Veep will return to HBO next year.

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