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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Veep Seasons 5 and 6!

Earlier this year, I had a great deal of fun catching up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ fantastic show, Veep!  (Click here for my review of seasons 1 & 2, and click here for my review of seasons 3 & 4.)  After the conclusion of season four, the show’s creator and show-runner Armando Iannucci took a step back from running the show.  Taking over as show-runner was David Mandel.  I was a big fan of Mr. Mandel’s work from the later seasons of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  (He also ran the brilliant but little-seen six-episode animated series based on Kevin Smith’s Clerks from 2000.  Only two episodes of the show ever aired, but all six were released to DVD and they’re great.  Also, Mr. Mandel’s commentary track for all six episodes, along with Kevin Smith, was just as much fun as the episodes themselves!)

David Mandel would go on to run the three final seasons of Veep.  He did a terrific job, maintaining consistency with what Mr. Iannucci had established as the tone of the show while also allowing his own specific comedic sensibilities to come into play.  The David Mandel seasons of Veep were, I think, even faster-paced that the previous seasons, and the characters all seemed to get even more hilariously awful (as hard as that might be to believe, based on their behavior in seasons one through four).

Under both the Iannucci and Mandel administrations, Veep was a fantastic show.  It’s a biting, devastating satire of the American political system.  It’s a workplace comedy.  It was a fast-paced joke machine, brought to life by an extraordinary comedic ensemble.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus has forever cemented her position as one of the finest comedic actresses of all time; her perfect, unbeatable comedic timing was on display in every second she was on-screen here.  But then look at this deep bench: Tony Hale as Gary; Anna Chlumsky as Amy; Reid Scott as Dan; Matt Walsh as Mike; Sufe Bradshaw as Sue; Timothy Simons as Jonah; Sam Richardson as Richard Splett; Gary Cole as Kent; Kevin Dunn as Ben; Sarah Sutherland as Catherine; Clea DuVall as Marjorie; and Hugh Laurie as Tom James.  Wowsers!!  I love each and every one of those characters, and I could not imagine any other actor bringing any of these roles to life.

OK, let’s dive into seasons five and six…!

At the end of season four, we left Selina Meyer in an electoral college tie for the Presidency.  At the time, that seemed like a stretch to me; a writerly device to keep Selina stuck in the weird middle ground of great-power/no-power that she’d inhabited since the show began.  I still think that way, but I … [continued]

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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 … [continued]

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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Veep Seasons One and Two!

Julia Louis Dreyfus’s show Veep always interested me.  I was, of course, an enormous fan of Ms. Dreyfus from Seinfeld.  The cast looked great (Arrested Development alum Tony Hale’s involvement got my attention), and the political setting really interested me.  But somehow, I never got around to watching the show!  Thankfully, I have finally remedied that, tearing through seasons one and two on DVD, and I love this show as much as I had expected to.

Created by Armando Iannucci, Veep stars Julia Louis Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the Vice President of the United States.  This political satire follows the misadventures of Ms. Meyer and her somewhat hapless team as they try to navigate the shark-infested political waters of Washington.

Julia Louis Dreyfus is superlative as Vice President Meyer.  She is so effortlessly perfect in this role.  Above all else, she is toweringly funny.  I mean, ridiculously, amazingly, note-perfectly funny.  She’s able to play Meyer as a little dim, a little self-centered, a little bumbling, but also as a good-hearted underdog who we root for as she is ignored by the president, critiqued by the press, and surrounded by a staff who don’t exactly feel like the Washington A-team.  This is an amazing balancing act.  There is a slim club of actors who get to play an iconic character on TV.  It’s almost unheard of to get to play two.  Ms. Dreyfus makes it look easy.

Anna Chlumsky (all grown up since 1991’s My Girl) plays Amy, Selina Meyer’s Chief-of-Staff.  I love Amy, a tough, smart Washington warrior who is also human and not above an occasional (ok, more than occasional) screw-up.  Ms. Chlumsky’s unflappable demeanor is comedic gold.  Tony Hale plays Selina’s body-man, Gary.  Mr. Hale is hilarious as the fiercely loyal, puppy-dog-like Gary.  This is a classic, instantly iconic TV character.  (Remember what I just wrote about how amazing it is that Julia Louis Dreyfus was able to play two iconic TV characters on two different shows?  Same goes for Mr. Hale.)  Matt Walsh (founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, who has also popped up all over the place, in films such as Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, The Hangover, Cyrus, I Love You, Man, Role Models, Step Brothers, and Be Kind, Rewind) plays Communications Director Mike McLintock, and Mr. Walsh is the show’s comedic sneak weapon.  I find the way he plays the weary and idiotic Mike to be hilarious perfection.

Reid Scott plays Dan, the young, ambitious smooth operator who joins Selina’s team in the pilot episode.  Dan starts off, by design, as very unlikable.  (We the viewers don’t like him because Amy and the rest of Selina’s team don’t like him.)  But … [continued]