Vice President Selina Meyer is just a heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world in HBO's cynical, hilarious and profane political satire "Veep" (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO; 3 stars). I hope that heart never stops beating.
As played by the wonderful Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Meyer would be a disaster as president. And as funny as that might be, I want to see Louis-Dreyfus and creator Armando Iannucci ("The Thick of It," "In the Loop") mine Meyer's predicament as the least important politician in Washington for all it's worth.
"What have I been missing here?" Meyer asks a senator (Kate Burton) she hopes will help her out of a tight spot in the first episode.
"Power," replies the senator, vaguely pretending to joke.
Meyer, viewers will learn quickly, wants to be a lot more important and respected than she is. She's not a complete idiot, but she is a bit ditzy, a lot self-involved and completely image-obsessed. She lacks most social graces and relies heavily on an inept group of aides who constantly screw up.
She and her team are such bumbling, cursing klutzes (the f-bomb is dropped almost 30 times in the first half-hour episode), the president won't even talk to them. "No," her executive assistant, Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), says every time Meyer asks if the president has called. And she asks a lot.
Like some of my favorite workplace comedies ("Better Off Ted," "Archer"), "Veep" relies on its supporting actors. Here they match Louis-Dreyfus in bringing the funny.
Tony Hale plays Gary, who whispers info in Meyer's ear so she can pretend to know something about the people she's forced to talk to. Chicago native Matt Walsh plays Mike, the press secretary who cares for an imaginary mutt so he doesn't have to work late nights (his officemates say he has a "bull-shitsu"). Anna Chlumsky plays Amy, Meyer's chief of staff who has a hate/hate relationship with her sort of ex Dan, the cocky new deputy director of communications played by Reid Scott. Amy also spends a lot of time fending off the attention of arrogant White House aide Jonah (Timothy C. Simons).
Almost the entire team is on hand in the premiere when Meyer loses her dignity yet again at a fundraiser where she blows a speech so badly, she's forced to escape by doing her own version of the walk-and-talk made famous on "The West Wing."
"What we're gonna do is we're gonna walk slowly to the car, OK?" she tells her staff. "But you guys surround me, very purposeful. We're discussing important..." She pauses, trying to think of the right word, "...things."
"Veep" isn't deep like past HBO satires such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It doesn't add a lot to the political conversation or leave you with much to dwell on beyond how funny these actors are. In that sense, it's not unlike the current political climate--pretty superficial.
That's just fine with me. I'm always up for an amusing sitcom, and this one gets my vote.