Before we delve into this week’s episode, please note that Reid Scott, who plays the Vice President’s deputy director of communications Dan Egan (a.k.a., the show’s “massive and total sh*t”) will be hanging out in the comments to discuss the episode, the series, and his role in it. He’ll be stopping by around 3 p.m. EST. Please drop in, offer him a warm welcome, and hit him up with lots of questions. Thanks, Reid, for joining us.
With that out of the way, in a television climate replete with complex dramas featuring two dozen characters, and sitcoms that often hinge on the romantic relationships of the leads, Veep provides a refreshing change of pace, in that it doesn’t aspire to do anything more than make you laugh your ass off. You don’t need infographics to keep up with the characters, or an understanding of English literature to follow the themes.
That’s not to say that Veep is a dumb show: Like Armando Iannucci’s British series, The Thick Of It, Veep is a deft and sophisticated satire of contemporary politics, kind of like Arrested Development meets Better Off Ted set in the West Wing. In fact, Julia Louis-Dreyfus — who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Vice President Selina Meyer — has had the ear of Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden in shaping her character, someone who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, and yet frustratingly yields little power.
The first season of Veep centered primarily on the pointlessness of the Vice President’s office, the ceremonial activities, and Meyers’ fruitless attempts to rise above being something more than a figurehead. The first episode of season two, “Midterms,” suggests a shift. After the Democrats lose the House of Representatives and suffer heavy defeats to the Republicans, we learn that Meyer — on the strength of a 0.9% polling bump during the midterm elections — has gained some traction within the White House. The good news is, Meyers’ higher public approval ratings means that the President is more willing to use her. The bad news is, as the most public voice of the faltering party, Meyers will now be seen as the “face of failure.”
She also has a new nemesis, Kent Davison (the spectacular Gary Cole), the president’s new senior strategist, a cut-throat statistician who is so cold and calculating he has “ice in his semen.” The episode sets up their rivalry, and they apparently have a history together. During the presidential campaign, Davison made Meyers campaign with her ex-husband, which meant she had to listen to him banging his new girlfriend at night.
Meanwhile, Gary (Tony Hale), the vice-president’s personal aide, has a new girlfriend (Bridesmaid‘s Jessica St. Clair), who is at odds with Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), the vice president’s chief of staff. Amy, meanwhile, is trapped between obligations to the Vice President and her supposedly dying father, while Mike (Matt Walsh) — the VP’s Director of Communications — is trying to unload a sinking ship. Literally. Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), the swarmy White House liaison, is as hilariously obnoxious as ever, and the ever ambitious Dan Egan (the TOTALLY AWESOME Reid Scott) is trying to avoid becoming a prison bitch.
As always, however, it’s not the political machinations of Veep that provide the biggest source of comedy, it’s the PR gaffes, the wheel-spinning futility, and the checked ambition. There’s an entire subplot in the premiere that centers on Meyers’ choice of lipstick, which comes to a head when it breaks off into Davison’s eye and stains the Oval Office’s carpet. But thanks to a bump in the polls and a bigger role in the administration, we can look forward to a season where the stakes are higher and therefore, the gaffes all the more hilariously humiliating. It’s going to be a spectacular season of one of the funniest shows on television.