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Facts of the Case
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld) is in the midst of her second year as Vice-President of the United States, and she's on a mission: to be taken more seriously and to play a bigger role in the President's administration. After some considerable effort, Selina actually manages to achieve her goal, earning some important new responsibilities in the realm of foreign affairs. Alas, her life remains impossibly overwhelming, as she dodges from one headache-inducing P.R. crisis to the next. Will Selina's new role earn her the respect she feels she deserves, or simply magnify her blunders? Or both? Find out in Veep: The Complete Second Season!
It was inevitable that Armondo Ianucci's American political satire Veep would draw comparisons to his British political satire The Thick of It. At a glance, the former looks like a culturally-tweaked carbon copy of the latter. However, Veep has established an identity of its own over the course of its first two seasons—it's absolutely a worthy, brilliant show in its own right, tackling the specific insanity of the American political system with ruthless aplomb. The show lacks an American equivalent of The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed Brit who immediately took control of every room he walked into. Washington's current power structure is too muddled, messy and savage to permit the existence of no-nonsense individuals devoted to getting things done.
One of the most entertaining, melancholy elements of the show is the manner in which it demonstrates how much work is required to do almost nothing. Actually accomplishing something of note that would positively impact real people is almost out of the question; merely maintaining the status quo requires political maneuvering of epic proportions. The sense of trying to help the country is all but lost in the world of Veep. All that remains within Selina Meyer's life is a desperate, sad, hilarious struggle for survival. She isn't a particularly good person, honestly, but she's certainly not a cutthroat antihero a la Frank Underwood. She just wants to be liked and to keep her job, and doing that occasionally requires her to do some startling things.
God, I love how mean-spirited this show is. Ianucci remains the best in the business at crafting a perfectly-worded insult, and these characters continue to throw ruthless barbs at each other that are guaranteed to make more sensitive viewers blush (I'd post a few of my favorites here, but this is a relatively family-friendly site). It would be one of the most depressing viewing experiences on television if we were actually emotionally invested in any of these people. I kinda-sorta like Selina and her oddball staff, but no one would ever mistake any of them for top-notch government employees or great human beings. To one degree or another, these folks have brought all of their problems on themselves.
Generally, the second season of a comedy series is an improvement on the first, as everyone involved has started to figure out what works, what doesn't and which cast members share the best chemistry. Honestly, that's not really the case this time around. To be sure, this is an excellent season of television, but the first was just as strong—Veep is one of those shows that somehow just hit the ground running (rare in general, but even moreso in the realm of comedies). Still, Ianucci's fine-tuned political joke machine continues firing on all cylinders, and his cast is as rock-solid as ever.
If there was ever any doubt about Ms. Dreyfuss' status as one of televisions finest comediennes, Veep fully demonstrates that she's the real deal. She aces both the verbal and physical comedy the role requires, generating laughs of all different sorts on a regular basis despite being the show's relative "straight man." I flat-out love Tony Hale (Arrested Development) as Selina's socially awkward aide—the role suggests what Buster Bluth might be like if he somehow developed the ability to function in the real world. Matt Walsh (The Hangover) is still terrific as the sad-sack Mike McClintock, too. Special mention should go to series newcomers Kevin Dunn (Luck) and Gary Cole (The Good Wife), both of whom immediately become invaluable additions to the series. Dunn's perpetually exasperated work as the President's Chief of Staff is consistently hilarious, and Cole steals all of his scenes with a sly, subtle performance.
Veep: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) has received an exceptional 1080p/1.78:1 transfer. HBO is always pretty rock-solid in this department, and this release is no exception. While the show isn't one of the network's most visually stunning efforts (much of the show takes place within the confines of a typical-looking government office), detail is superb, flesh tones are natural, depth is strong and the bright colors have a lot of pop. "Simple and solid" is also a good way to describe the DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track, which is dominated by dialogue but occasionally features snippets of cheekily patriotic underscore (one of the show's less subtle elements, but not a terribly distracting one). Supplements include four commentary tracks with Ianucci, Dreyfuss and a handful of other cast and crew members, some deleted scenes and a digital copy of the series.
Veep remains one of the sharpest comedies on television, consistently well-written and superbly-acted stuff loaded with devastatingly funny dialogue. Highly recommended.
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