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TV PREVIEW: Veep [Sky Atlantic Monday 25th, 10pm]

Posted by Michael Moran
Michael Moran
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on Saturday, 16 June 2012

We’re often warned about the dangers of power without responsibility, but Selina Meyer has the opposite problem.

As Vice-President of the USA Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) has numerous responsibilities, but little actual power. The central character in Veep is a political star who has somehow been sidelined into impotent vice-presidency.

 

 

Selina is surrounded by a retinue of staff who are variously incompetent and….well, just incompetent really. She walks a tightrope between a variety of Senate special interest groups and generally manages to alienate all of them.

If that basic premise sounds a touch familiar to British viewers, there’s a perfectly good reason for that. Veep is a political satire created by Armando Ianucci in the vein of his highly-regarded but monstrously sweary The Thick Of It.

 

 

Most of that unprintable language came from weaponised spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi. For Tucker’s dialogue Ianucci strewed expletives across his script in the way Jackson Pollock applied oils to a canvas: apparently haphazardly but accreting into a peculiarly savage poetry.

For those of us that might occasionally end up watching television with our children or mothers, it’s perhaps for the best that there’s no Malcolm Tucker figure in Veep.

 

 

Without The Thick Of It’s central monster, Veep might be in danger of being a sort of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. Fear not though. While clearly existing in the same universe as The Thick Of It, Veep is actually a more accessible, mainstream ensemble comedy.

To the average UK viewer most of the cast will be unfamiliar faces, but I think that helps the show's air of documentary authenticity.

It’s at times reminiscent, in tone, of the later, better, episodes of The Office when Ricky Gervais backburnered David Brent a little and allowed the awkward romance between Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman to blossom.

Veep is by no means a romcom though. Ianucci's satirical edge remains unblunted.

Crucially for a comedy, Veep is just plain funny.

Louis-Dreyfus plays the VP as frustrated and powerless rather than predictably hapless. Even without those trademark Pre-Raphaelite curls she’s still recognisably the same actress that traded firecracker one-liners with Jerry Seinfeld. She’s a shade quieter though and more content to let the laughs come to her rather than chasing them quite as eagerly as she did in Seinfeld.

 

 

Coming from US cable network HBO, who make a disproportionate amount of the best American shows, Veep is destined I’m sure to be one of those cultural touchstones that drive many a dinner party conversation.

The series begins on Sky Atlantic next Monday (25th). I’m telling you about it a week early so that non-subscribers among you can hatch a plan to ‘spontaneously’ drop in on their satellite-powered neighbours. About a quarter to ten should do it.

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