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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

VEEP Not Second-Choice Release Today

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Veep - The Complete Fourth Season' on Blogcritics.

HBO’s Veep is about to begin its fifth season, so, not coincidentally, The Complete Fourth season arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this week. The series is a hilarious send-up of an inept politician who is in the job below the one she wants. With a stellar cast and sharp writing, somehow the program gets better with each subsequent year, and the fourth season is no exception.

As this run begins, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is Veep no longer, having taken the Oval Office after the president’s resignation. Despite getting to the job she wants, things do not get any easier for Selina as she bumbles through having actual authority and faces stiff primary challenge in the upcoming election. Unlike what she’d hoped while aspiring to the highest office in the land, everything doesn’t fall into place and she finds her difficulties to be greater than ever. Which makes for ripe comedic ground, this show relying heavily on mistakes and errors.

With Selina’s elevation, the staff is in disarray, too. Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) struggle for control of the agenda, and while one gains an early lead, that is far from the end of their drama. Mike (Matt Walsh) may not be suited to the larger spotlight, while Gary (Tony Hale) feels edged out. Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) continues to hang on the fringe, looking for his in. Kent (Gary Cole) and Ben (Kevin Dunn) continue to attempt to do what’s best, but they aren’t always right, and aren’t always listened to when they are. Only Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) remains relatively unfazed, but that’s the role she plays in the crazy group.

Veep likes to bring in fresh faces, and why not? Any comedy actor should love to get on a series with this high a profile and this much acclaim. Sam Richardson (Spy), who has appeared on the series before as Richard, is given a larger presence in The Complete Fourth Season, being promoted to a full-time player. The terrific Patton Oswalt recurs throughout the season. Most notable, though, is Hugh Laurie’s (House) amusing turn as Tom James, Selina’s running mate who keeps overshadowing her. Is it on purpose or by accident? Is Tom angling to edge Selina out and take over, or is he just not as good as she hoped he’d be? You’ll have to watch to find out.

As usual, there are plenty of comedy-of-error moments and slapstick intermixed with witty dialogue and clever bits. Veep is both smart and dumb comedy, excelling at all levels of humor, and providing constant entertainment. It is certainly one of the most consistent series in the genre, rarely having a lesser episode or scene.

As with most sitcom television shows, there isn’t a huge difference in quality between high definition and standard. Obviously, the picture and sound are a lot crisper if you go for the Blu-ray version, but with few special effects or sweeping vistas, it’s not very noticeable. That being said, standard definition is starting to look like it’s from another era and it’s not something I’d ever recommend for a modern show when HD is available.

Where this set fails is in bonus features. Besides some deleted scenes and digital copies of the ten episodes, there is nothing else in this release. With such a phenomenal ensemble and all the Emmy wins, one would think somebody would sit down and talk to those involved about the series. There have got to be some good stories about things that happen on-set. Sadly, though, nothing along those lines is included, making this one of the worst groupings of extras I’ve seen. It’s not enough to sway me into not recommending The Complete Fourth Season; the episodes are still plenty worth it on their own. But it it regrettable.

Veep: The Complete Fourth Season will be available next Tuesday, April 19th at retailers everywhere.

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