Season 1, Episode 8: “Tears”
Armando Iannucci made it clear with last week’s episode that “Veep” will be steering away from anything resembling real issues. While a pregnant Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) at the end of “Baseball” opened the door to a potentially inspired direction for the show, one episode later it was explained away by Meyer having a miscarriage, as the veep and her team moved on to the next issue that was plaguing their office. The show’s established theme is that the office of the veep is essentially powerless and even meaningless, and as a result it doesn’t have much to say about the political climate in Washington except for how it operates on the most superficial level. The recurring theme is that those in Washington who wield power and influence are stupid, assholes, self-involved or all three at once. Listen, we get it, but we hope as “Veep” moves into season two it has a bit more to say as they are running out of non-issues to try and mine for laughs.
“Tears” focuses on just that, with Selina Meyer’s sudden (and kind of random) crying fits throwing herself and her office through more hoops. The team heads to Cleveland this week, where Meyer is expected to endorse Congressman Furlong in his run for Governor. Unfortunately, Meyer arrives to find out that Furlong no longer wants her backing, with her recent 66% disapproval rating (“That’s everyone in America who’s awake right now”) making her “damaged goods.” Meyer is rightfully pissed, not only because she’s made the trip for nothing, but also because of the embarassment the whole incident will cause her. However, in a confrontational meeting with Furlong she unexpectedly breaks down into tears, mumbling stuff about the variety of problems she has from not seeing her daughter for a few months to the sudden end of her relationship with Ted.
However, witnessing Selina’s sudden tears gives Mike (Matt Walsh) and Amy (Anna Chlumsky) an idea — they are going to try and “tweak the tear nipple.” Due to give an interview to a local reporter, Mike pulls the journalist aside and slyly suggests to steer the direction toward her daughter, the disapproval numbers and the most recent bit of intel: that governor Danny Chung is golfing with the President. You might remember that not only is he being buzzed about as a potential running mate for the President in the next election, but that Meyer committed a serious gaffe when she went on “Meet The Press” and wrongly declared he wasn’t eligible for a White House position because he wasn’t born in the country. The interview goes in the direction Mike and Amy hope, and Selina has a brief breakdown before magnificently turning it into a statement about the work ethic and spirit of Ohio. “She is magnificent,” Gary (Tony Hale) says in awe.
As these things go in the Internet age, the interview clip goes viral and soon there is an outpouring of support for Selina. This comes as a shock to Congressman Furlong who wants the endorsement again now that Meyer turning from media pariah and public outcast, to single mom and vice presidential hero. Dan (Reid Scott), working his own plays away from Mike and Amy, manages to get the change of decision to the attention of Selina as she’s giving her speech to the crowd gathered to see Furlong. The congressman nearly changes his mind once more when Selina — again — starts a miniature breakdown, only to rebound sharply to a huge chorus of cheers from the room. The congressman gets her endorsement, Selina has somehow cried her way back into the good graces of the press and public, and all is well again right?
Well, not quite. After the team heads back to D.C. to celebrate, it seems Mike and Amy’s ploy has backfired. The journalist hits Twitter to announce that the tears in the interview were coerced by Selina’s team and ends her tweet with the hashtag #fakeveepweep. Furlong of course is furious, and it doesn’t help any that he’s the head of the Congressional Oversight Committee. He warns Dan and the rest of Meyer’s office to prepare because he’s going to look into the amendment to the McCauley bill that had elements of the Clean Jobs bill tacked on. And that’s where we end off the season….rather limply.
“Veep” stretches the bounds of crediblility with “Tears.” First off, no journalist (especiallly a regional one) who has snagged a live interview with Vice President would tweet afterward an accusation that the emotions expressed in their talk were fake. Not unless they were hoping never to get an interview from anyone in D.C. ever again. And Meyer’s suddenly highly emotional day comes a bit out of nowhere. She’s shown herself to have a steely resolve for most of the season, but now she’s suddenly surprised her job is 24/7 and can be physically and mentally draining? How did she survive an election campaign? Or even all the other years she’s spent at various levels of government? We’re not saying that Selina needs to be inflexibly stern, but three crying jaunts in one day are astoundingly uncharacteristic. And it’s a bit curious that the miscarriage — which can be a hugely emotional trauma for many women — isn’t at all named for the source of any of this.
“Veep” closes out the season with the rather dry McCauley amendent/Clean Jobs affair still lingering. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s one of the duller aspects of the show, with the neverending maneuvers not particularly exciting, funny or interesting. We’d wager one could watch C-Span for a week and get about the same effect. Already renewed for a second season, here’s hoping “Veep” starts moving away from setting up sitcom-style scenarios and takes a stronger bite out of the political system. The good thing is the show is blessed with a fantastic cast — everyone is hands down perfect in their roles — but we really hope they are given a chance to bite into meatier material. Iannucci certainly has a way with one-liners — no show except “Girls” does them better at the moment — but the goodwill from that will only last so long. And can the President please call already?
The season ends on a rather uninspired note, but there’s lots of room for improvement and the talent to do it with, so here’s hoping season two steps it up. [C]