HBO’s newest pseudo-comedy, Veep, premiered on HBO last night and left a little to be desired. The show revolves around Selina Meyer, the candid, foul-mouthed, fictional Vice President of the United States played with ease by the uber-talented, uber-loveable Julia Louis-Dreyfes. Unfortunately, the pilot’s strength revolved solely around the prized asset that is JLD, as well.
Of course, HBO has never been saddled with having to pack their comedies with 10 punchlines-a-minute to keep up with the network attention span. But where the immensely successful Curb Your Enthusiasm is often a pressure-cooker of tension and buildup, exploding into meltdowns that rate nuclear on the awkward scale, Veep’s premiere was more like a series comedic sparks that never ignited. Most of the humor resided in great quips written for JLD’s character, the rest of the time you can feel the writers straining to milk each scene of it’s comedy, like a scripted version of a Will Ferrell improv scene that didn’t quite work. Such was the case in a scene in which one of the Vice President’s aides goes on an entire rambling monologue about
her painfully obvious soon-to-be-romantic-interest a rival aide being a shit, then literally being made of shit, then comparable to a “a blanket made of shit”, etc., etc. ZZzzzzz. Or when an older character refers to a successful, early 30’s character as “Doogie Howser” to which the youngster responds “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!” Give me a fucking break. Suuure, and I don’t know who Alex Mack is. Or when one of the characters, established as someone who routinely signs the VP’s signature, moments later accidentally signs her own name on an important birthday card. Why today? Because it’s comedy, thats why!
BUT the potential is actually here for this show. Veep boasts a cast of comedic pros including improv champ and supporting player extraordinaire Matt Walsh and Arrested Development’s Tony Hale. And the pilot’s laurel resting aside, the premise IS ripe for the picking. It’s a rarity in today’s comedic storylines to feature characters that have so epically far down to fall in their careers and in the public eye- and that’s almost always a big payoff (Liz Lemon and friends, The Bluth’s, Leslie Knope). Speaking of Parks and Recreations, let us not forget how bland its beginnings were. It also relied too heavily on the mere presence of its comedic assets and it’s format. (P&R has it’s own Michael Scott and it’s filmed like The Office! You’ll love it! Veep has the Queen of Sitcoms and she can drop F bombs cause its HBO! You’ll love it!….and I did love that). If Veep takes cue from the last generation of great sitcoms and humiliates the titular character often, uncomfortably hard and has her fiercely try to rise back up each time (with “number 2” sadly being the ceiling for the Vice President), this show will stop floundering and will also ascend to the difficult number 2 for TV comedy…seasons, that is!
AND AVOID JOKES LIKE THAT.