With HBO’s lineup primarily drama driven it is nice to watch “Veep”, a flat-out comedy basted with R-rated sarcasm and some hilarious satire pointed at the political system and those who work in it at all levels. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has found a suitable place for her comedic talents which have not been seen successfully since her “Seinfeld” days. She alone does not provide all the comedy, in fact most of the laughs come from her oddball crew of political helpers.
The show plays up nicely the role of being Vice President of the United States, a position which seems more like showmanship and hand-waving than an actual person of political importance. In fact, the permeating vibe is that the Vice President really has nothing to do except lobby the smaller things the president does not have time for and maybe assume office if anything happens to the current president. This is nicely shown when they believe the President has a heart attack office camera and Elise can hardly stifle her excitement at the possibility of becoming the new President. She feigns political importance by running into parties she wasn’t invited too and always asking if the President has called (in which he never does). Added to this she has her staff interrupt her talking to important people and have them say “The president is on the line for you.” A running joke is that Selina often asks if the President has called and the answer is always no. You never see “Potus” as the veep’s staff refer to him. In the way the use it, it almost comes off as a derogatory term as much of the time there is a “f@#kin” in front of it.
As far as the Veep’s team goes, Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) is the most straight-laced of the group who also has the most manners. There is Selina’s gopher Gary Walsh (Tony Hale feeling comfortable playing a similar character he played in “Arrested Development”). Matt Walsh plays Mike McLintock who has been working with the veep since early on in her career. He feels that he can do this job in his sleep and often phones in his effort daily. Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is a young upstart with political ambitions who sells out repeatedly to any higher position person in hopes of making his way upward. Finally there is Jonah Ryan played by Timothy Simons. Jonah is the standard weird person of the show. He’s allergic to fruit and loves death metal. He does not directly work for Selina however he does work at the White House and tells this to everyone at every opportunity.
The comedy is mostly derived from scathing sarcasm aimed at everyone in the show…coming from everyone in the show. The adult nature comes solely from language as there is no sex or violence at all. In fact, the writers and possibly some actor improvisation waste no opportunity to shoehorn F-bombs into every sentence they can. It may take a couple of episodes to get into the flow of the show but if as a viewer you begin to have early reservations, watch episode five as it is by far the funniest episode of the entire season.
Presented in 1.78:1 and sporting an AVC codec, the presentation is extremely pleasing to the eye. There’s is nothing too flashy about the production design however colors pops brightly. The customary reds, whites and blues found around the offices are rendered nicely. Close-ups and mid range shots are clear and provide a nice level of detail. I never saw the show originally shown on HBO, but the 1080P image should provide more detail than what the 1080i presentation did back then.
HBO provides a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack which matches the material nicely. Since this is a comedy, surround sound and LFE is fairly limited. Rear activity is only noticeable whenever Selina and her crew are travelling in her motorcade. But dialogue is anchored properly to the front soundstage and is never a problem to hear.
The extras are just as aplenty as the F-bombs in the show. There are twelve different commentaries found throughout the eight episodes. They range from cast members joking about what happens in the episodes to the crew talking more about the technical phases. Next is a 14 minute “Making Of” feature that delves into the creative decisions made for the episodes. There is some good information fans of the show should love. There are a couple of video highlights that sort of act as small additions onto the show. The first one is a retraction from Selina to a governor accompanied by some outtakes. The second one is a PSA for the obesity campaign Selina was assigned to. It is played straight however there is an alternate take where Dreyfus in character as Selina does a riotous run-through before the actual first take. Last is nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes which would have been nice additions to each episode.
Although the first season of “Veep” is only eight episodes long, there is a lot to like about this show. Selina Meyer is not a Palin knock off, but a fully realized original character embodied by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s wit and charm. She does not do it alone as her co-stars gladly bring more comedic chaos to the proceedings. With wonderful video and audio and a healthy amount of extras, this comes recommended as a rental for newbies and a purchase for already entrenched fans.