TV review: Veep Season 4, Sky Atlantic
Armando Iannucci's satire of American politics, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, just gets better and better
Politics is ripe for satire. The most powerful men and women in the world spend their lives begging and cajoling the population for votes. In this media led world, photo opportunities are almost as important as policies. Armando Iannucci's The Thick of It was a TV classic, skewering the behind-the-scenes world of the British government (Peter Capaldi's foul mouthed spin doctor Malcom Tucker became an instant TV icon).
Iannucci had little to do with a failed remake at ABC, that never made it beyond the pilot, but Veep is cut from the same cloth retooled for an American audience at HBO. This time the focus is Vice President Selina Meyer (Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus) surrounded by a team of opportunistic and incompetent aides. The first series was haunted by the ghost of The Thick of It but season two really found its own voice, Iannucci adapting the template for the even more brutal and unforgiving world of US politics.
Season four finds Meyer as President of the United States after a shock resignation at the end of the last series. She's now struggling with the inherent pressures of office and fighting for re-election on her own merits. Louis-Dreyfus is brilliant, bringing Meyer to life with a host of tics and insecurities. It's a fully rounded character that has justly won her multiple Emmys and Golden Globes for the role.
However Veep isn't just about Meyer, it's the magnificent ensemble cast that really makes the show. Tony Hale is faultless as sycophantic uptight 'bag man' Gary; Matt Walsh brings just the right level of hangdog defeatism as press secretary Mike McClintock, while Anna Chlumsky and Reid Scott make a perfect double act as careerist campaign managers / lobbyists Amy Brookheimer and Dan Egan.
Hugh Laurie is a great addition to the team as Selina's running mate, dashing soundbite machine Tom James. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: Timothy Simons, Sufe Bradshaw, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn and Sarah Sutherland (as Meyer's beleaguered daughter Catherine) all deserve praise.
The real skill lies in bringing a level of humanity to these seemingly abhorrent characters, making them strangely likeable even as they rush to deliberately fool the electorate or cover up their many blunders. Every character feels scarily believable in this vicious world of back-biting, double-dealing and damaged personalities.
The plot is brilliantly constructed, labyrinthine in its double-speak and levels of deniability, but always easy to follow, incredibly funny and utterly engrossing. And if you crave The Thick of It's ribald language, you'll be captivated by Veep's continually inventive use of vulgarity. A fantastic group of actors coupled with achingly smart scripts (partially improvised by the cast) means Veep is the sharpest political comedy on TV right now.
Veep season four is on Sky Atlantic, Wed 15 July (full series available on demand via Sky Box Sets).