America needs Vice President Selena Meyer. As played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, she’s the flustered, flitting quipper-snapper of the West Wing, and the acridly hilarious center of HBO’s “Veep.” And while she sincerely believes that the political universe revolves around her and only her, Selena is wisely attuned to the ridiculousness of it all.
In the Season Three premiere of Armando Iannucci’s half-hour comedy, which hits HBO on April 6, Selena is in the thick of her presidential whisper campaign, poisoning, as always, her opponents, including POTUS — never seen or heard in the show — who has yet to officially announce his plans to step out of the presidential race. (Season Three trailer after the jump.)
But Selena is moving in fast to take his place. She’s hawking a new book, “Some New Beginnings” — which she of course didn’t write and which could’ve been titled “Hands of Our Children” (“it sounds like a massacre”). And in the bloodless spirit of political oneupmanship, she’s making the rounds at congressional funerals, drug raids and morning talk shows. Meanwhile, her staffers, including Chief Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), slave-boy Gary Walsh (Emmy winner Tony Hale) and overambitious kiss-ass Dan Egan (Reid Scott) are doing everything they can to manage, maintain and modulate Selena’s outsize ego and penchant for self-sabotage.
The first of the five episodes sent to press for review is mostly low-key — but still rife with politically incorrect one-liners and side-splitting slapstick. But the biggest bomb dropped is the banishing of smarmy perv Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) from the White House.
While crashing veep communications chief Mike’s (Matt Walsh) wedding, Jonah foolishly lets the cat out of the bag about a politico gossip site he’s running. And after Jonah ignites a “hashtag hurricane” by inadvertently leaking to the world that POTUS won’t be running in the next election, word spreads like kudzu to the West Wing and Jonah gets canned.
Now positioned as a headline-chasing outlaw circling Washington’s fringes for a damning scoop, Jonah is out to blow the whistle on Selena’s myriad hypocrisies. (In the second episode, Selena tasks her team with picking what side of the abortion coin she should be on: “I’m a woman, but they can’t know that.”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is pure poison as Selena Meyer. With her impeccable timing chops and unflinching willingness to embarrass herself, she has more than earned her two consecutive Emmys. And seeing her all wrung-hands and furrowed brows while viciously backsliding while lobbying for power in the White House is a treat. If Season Three is as good as Season Two, HBO has a new comedy classic in the wings.
Here’s what critics are saying so far about Season Three of “Veep”:
Variety is hot-and-cold:
In a way, [the premiere] perfectly encapsulates some of what’s good about “Veep” — it’s ruthlessly funny, as created by Armando Iannucci and portrayed by Louis-Dreyfus — but also what remains a tad too precious, tiptoeing around issues of party allegiance, which seems increasingly improbable as the Meyer campaign forges onward. The same goes for a subplot that has former White House operative Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) trying to make a go of it as a political blogger.
But AV Club is over the moon:
In that love of the joke, “Veep” has become the clearest heir to “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development,” and specific bits throughout the season recall both series. None of these comedy stalwarts lacks perspective or voice just because the focus is on the funny. They just don’t often inflate with gravitas. When public opinion on abortion comes back reporting “most of America standing up proudly and saying, ‘I don’t know,'” “Veep” is making a point. It just doesn’t get in the way of the comedy.
As in previous seasons of the series, the VP’s office is chaotic, with decisions constantly made at the last minute and for the wrong reasons, but the result is inevitably a centrist, compromised decision that doesn’t ruffle too many feathers. Sure, the myriad scandals that engulf politicians on a regular basis could be the result of conspiracies and backstabbing, but isn’t it more likely that our elected representatives are just a bunch of narcissists? Either way, it’s much funnier.