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Saturday, June 29, 2013

VEEP Learns How "D.C." Works

Article first published as VEEP Learns How "D.C." Works on TheTVKing.

HBO's Veep ends its second year with "D.C." Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is ready to announce she won't run for re-election with the president in two years, and so lets her staff go. Then, learning the president is resigning, she asks them all back to gear up for her own run, only to have it fall apart as rumors spread around Washington and the president decides to campaign after all. Of course, none of that matters when the president comes to Selina and announces he's done, so she can try for the presidency.

I have a feeling these back and forth types of situations go on all the time in Washington D.C. It's a city of wheeling and dealing, and one where betrayals happen frequently if someone things they can further their own career. With so many power-hungry, ambitious people in one place, there is bound to be lots of drama.

Veep makes these attitudes hilarious somehow. Even as Selina's staff scrambles to find a life raft off of her sinking ship, we root for them. Selina is a mess, as is very clear in almost every scene in which she appears. Because of this, one can understand and sympathize with those wanting to find a more stable environment where they won't constantly be putting out their fires.

Well, it's easy to pull for most of the staff, anyway. Dan (Reid Scott) jumps ship early and with gusto, even sharing a speech he writes for Selina with Chung (Randall Park, Larry Crowne). I don't know if it's because he doesn't have the history working for Selina, and so never seems as loyal as anyone else, or because he shows so few scruples in his interactions, but Dan is the most unforgiveable of the bunch. Unfortunately for him, this gaff either proves the others are rubbing off on him, or he is just as much of a mess as everyone else, and so belongs there.

It's interesting to see the parallels in "D.C" between Selina and Andrew (David Pasquesi, The Mob Doctor) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) and Ed (Zach Woods, The Office). Amy hates seeing how Andrew affects Selina, and how they use one another. Ed and her aren't quite so passionate, but they do use each other, much as Selina and Andrew do. Perhaps Amy is emulating her boss more than she thinks.

The plot that doesn't really work for me this week is Gary (Tony Hale) being torn between Selina and his girlfriend, Dana (Jessica St. Clair, Best Friends Forever). It not only feels too much like Hale's character from Arrested Development, but also doesn't really fit the persona of Gary, whom we've only seen worship Selina. Perhaps it's believable that he would latch onto someone else, but we didn't see that evolution, and Dana's interest in Gary doesn't come across as realistic.

Overall, though, Veep really works in the most unexpected of ways. Louis-Dreyfus is a comic genius, surrounded by other heavy weights. Each nuance and tick lands, and even the most pathetic becomes funny in their capable hands. It may be the earnestness with which the cast plays, which also includes Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, and Sufe Bradshaw, commits to every situation and moment, or the level of authenticity they bring to their selfish screw-ups, but there are usually several things to laugh out loud at each and every week.

This has only been helped more by bringing in Kent (Gary Cole) and Ben (Kevin Dunn) this season. Like when Parks and Recreation added Ben and Chris, having two established, talented actors expand the world of the show, as well as compliment the core group in their every scene, only makes the series better. I credit them both for season two being a marked improvement over season one.

I don't know what season three will look like, exactly. We may actually get to see Selina run for office, which will be cool, since Veep begins after she loses the first race. With the set up the series has provided, there are a myriad of directions and possibilities to explore, and each has their advantages.

Whatever the reason, Veep is doing very well, and I can't wait to see it come back next spring for a third go-round.

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