British writer-director Armando Iannucci was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar (along with his co-writers) for the 2009 political satire In the Loop, and he continues in that vein with his new HBO series Veep. While Loop focused on relations between the U.S. and the U.K., Veep is wholly American. The title character, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is the first female vice president of the United States, and the show follows her efforts to make a difference in her largely ineffectual post.
The characters on Veep may be vulgar, self-interested and awkward, but they aren’t irredeemably corrupt, and the show gets much of its humor from the contrast between the efforts of Selina and her staff to do something useful and productive (like promote environmentally friendly jobs or reduce filibustering) and the morass of compromises, mistakes and opposition they encounter along the way. The result isn’t so much a biting satire as a workplace comedy with extra swearing, which sometimes makes the show more appealing since the characters are generally sympathetic, but often makes it seem a little limp.
Louis-Dreyfus and fellow comedy veterans Tony Hale (Arrested Development) and Matt Walsh (Upright Citizens Brigade) do typically solid work, and Anna Chlumsky is very good as Selina’s put-upon chief of staff, but too many of the jokes fall flat, and Iannucci’s liberal use of the F-word doesn’t really make them any funnier. Veep is pleasant and amusing enough, but like its title character, it fails to make a lasting impression