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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Veep Seasons 3 and 4!

Last year I finally found the time to start watching Veep, Armando Iannucci’s raunchy Washington satire, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer.  I loved the first two seasons, and I was eager to continue with the show!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus continues to be perfection as the petty, narcissistic, power-hungry Selina.  This is a spectacular performance, and Ms. Louis-Dreyfus deserves all of the accolades she has received for her work on this show!  The entire ensemble is spectacular.  I love the group of borderline incompetents Selina has gathered around herself: Tony Hale as Gary, Anna Chlumsky as Amy, Reid Scott as Dan, Matt Walsh as Mike, and Sufe Bradshaw as Sue.  Season two added Kevin Dunn as Ben and Gary Cole as Kent, and at this point I could not imagine the show without those two weirdos.  Speaking of weirdos, of course, there is Timothy Simons as Jonah Ryan, the loudmouthed doofus constantly flitting in and out of Selina & co.’s orbit.  There’s also Sarah Sutherland as Selina’s much put-upon daughter, Catherine.  What a powerhouse ensemble!!

Season three adds Sam Richardson to the group as the pleasantly dim Richard Splett.  Richard enters the show by filling in for Gary on Selina’s book tour (where he proves to be a huge annoyance for her), and he continues to stick around in a variety of roles.  Mr. Richardson is so funny as this character!!  I also really enjoyed Diedrich Bader as Bill Ericsson, a campaign manager Selina considers hiring instead of Amy or Dan.  Another great addition was Christopher Meloni as Selina’s new personal trainer, Ray.  (Selina quickly starts sleeping with Ray, to the chagrin of most of her staff, particularly Gary.)

Season three charts Selina’s campaign for the job she has always longed for: the presidency.  The show mines a lot of fun out of the rituals of a modern-day campaign, from Selina’s book-tour through Iowa to the announcement of her campaign to the media furor when Selina tries out a different haircut.  I was also pleased that Danny Chung (Randall Park) and George Maddox (Isiah Whitlock) continued to appear, as Selina’s main opponents in pursuit of the presidency.

That Jonah could hold down a job in the White House seemed somewhat absurd to me, so I enjoyed that season three began with him out of work, trying to get back into a position of importance by starting a political gossip blog (“Ryantology”).  It’s a fantastic commentary on the media landscape that Jonah’s profane, the-truth-is-irrelevant style would allow him to succeed in this type of role!!

Other great moments in season three: Watching Amy and Dan fiercely compete over who gets to be Selina’s campaign manager; seeing Gary thrown into crisis when his bag-carrying shoulder starts bothering him; and of course the insane story of when Mike begins collecting his semen while at work (because he and his wife are beginning IVF treatments).

The twist at the end of season three — the resignation of POTUS, which thrusted Selina into the presidency — was a fantastic development for the show!  Season four delivered on the many comedic possibilities of allowing Selina to actually get that which she had always wished for — the presidency — but to still be unhappy and beset by problems everywhere.  That she still had to continue her campaign at the same time — because the election for the next president was still right around the corner — was icing on the cake.

(Selina’s flubbing her oath of office in the season three finale because Mike bumped into a lamp is such a brilliantly funny — and perfectly Veep — notion!)

That the staff could so majorly bungle Selina’s State of the Union address in the season four premiere — by loading the wrong version of the speech into her prompter — stretched the bounds of my credulity of the stupidity of these characters, but after that somewhat uncertain start I though season four was as good as the show has ever been, if not better!  It was exciting to see the show break out of its familiar settings (we rarely saw Selina’s familiar VP office in season four) to take these characters into new and unfamiliar settings and stories.

The great Patton Oswalt joined the show as Vice President Doyle’s chief of staff, Teddy, who continually abuses Jonah by grabbing his testicles.  It’s eyebrow-raising that the show could mine humor from this — it’s not a plot-line that has aged well, viewed now in our #metoo era.  But I have to admit that I still laughed a lot at the scenes between Mr. Oswalt (as Teddy) and Mr. Simons (as Jonah).  That Jonah could meet his match by encountering someone even more brash and inappropriate than himself was a great idea.  (And Veep has always been one of the most brashly anti-PC shows I have seen in a good long while!)

An even more important — and longer-lasting — addition to the show’s ensemble in season four was Hugh Laurie as Tom James, who Selina taps as her running mate.  I loved the chemistry between Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and Mr. Laurie, and I loved how the show followed the way the two of them would constantly jockey with one another for prestige.

I also enjoyed the occasionally recurring character of the completely indecisive Karen Collins (Lennon Parham)… and I was pleased to see Sam Richardson’s Richard Splett brought back as a more frequently recurring character.

I loved the twist of Dan’s finally getting fired from Selina’s staff — something that he has had coming since pretty much the very beginning! — and I enjoyed the way the show followed his follow-up job as a slimy corporate lobbyist.  I was far more surprised to see Amy decide to quit working for Selina — that was a great twist — and it was fun to watch her follow Dan into the lobbying business, where the two of them fell right back into their usual pattern of continually trying to get the better of the other.

The running story of the data breach wasn’t the most memorable storyline the show had ever done, but I did really love the way the circle of criminality widened to a hilarious degree as the season progressed and eventually even Gary got involved.  Also: seeing Mike and Gary get stranded in Iran in “Tehran” was amazing.

Season four’s penultimate episode, “Testimony,” was a comedic highlight of the season, as all of the chickens from the previous four seasons came home to roost and all of the characters’ many foibles and failings were thrust into the public spotlight.  I loved this format-breaking episode, in which all of the characters were called to testify before Congress.  My only question was how the show could possibly continue afterwards!!  Surely now our whole cast would be at minimum exposed as frauds and incompetents, and at worst imprisoned!  (Apparently the way forward was for future episodes to just ignore the events of this one, which is a bummer of a choice although one I understand, as I’m not sure there was any other way forward.)

The season four finale, “Election Night,” was a fantastic culmination to these two seasons of following Selina’s campaign.  The final twist was interesting: the show-runners utilized a deep-dive into the vagaries of election law to present a scenario in which Selina and her competitor tied in the electoral college, sending the election to the Senate to be decided, allowing for the possibility that Senator Tom James, Selina’s running-mate, could be voted into the Presidency, with Selina as Vice-President.  On the one hand, I loved the crazy idea that, after all this, Selina could be right back as the Veep.  On the other hand, this extraordinarily unlikely scenario felt like a huge stretch for me, giving me the sense that perhaps the writers didn’t have any idea how to continue the show.  (Interestingly, creator and show-runner Armando Iannucci would step back after the end of season four, perhaps lending some validity to my perception.  New show-runner David Mandel would successfully find a way to keep the show interesting in season five… but that’s a subject for another blog post!)

I’ve really enjoyed catching up with Veep.  The show’s 10-episode seasons are the perfect length, keeping things fun and moving along without ever overstaying the show’s welcome.  Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and this extraordinary cast allow this show about mostly hateful and incompetent Washington hacks to consistently be huge amounts of fun.  I’m already deep into David Mandel’s seasons of the show, and I’ll be back here soon to discuss those final years!

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