“Veep” Shines in Today’s Political Climate

"Veep" is the perfect show for today's political climate

| May 1, 2017

Photo courtesy of HBO

Can politics be funny during politically divided times? Can it be thrilling? Do audiences really want to tune in to watch a show about the D.C. world for entertainment after being bombarded by the real thing 24/7 in the media? After all, isn’t television where we want to escape?

These are questions any show-runner would ask themselves while piloting a series about the political world. However, it just so happens that two major shows about politicians are making their return in coming months. The award winning comedy series “Veep” made its return to HBO on April 16 and it enters into a more politically charged world than last year, following a presidential election that felt like an episode of the series on a seemingly daily basis.

Following VP and eventual President Selina Meyer, along with her dysfunctional staff, the series has given viewers a look at politics that depicts its players as little more than narcissistic morons causing chaos and confusion everywhere they go. Even when something good does happen in Washington, it’s usually to the advantage of a particular politician, who sees it as an advance in their career or an interesting chapter in their biography.

Of all the many shows made about politicians, specifically ones in D.C., “Veep” may be the most relevant and truthful. The show may be more cartoonish than shows such as “The West Wing” or “House of Cards,” but there appears to be a nugget of truth in its own absurdity. In fact, in an interview for a Podcast last fall, former speechwriter for President Obama Jon Favreau stated, “You do get a few ‘West Wing’ moments but most days are like an episode of ‘Veep’.” That is to say the spastic feeling of people running around like chickens with their head cut off, foul mouthing each other at every turn and just trying to keep afloat in the chaos of everyday business is close to what day-to-day life in the White House is like.

Photo courtesy of HBO

Yet, whether or not you ascribe to the idea that the show is our closest representation of big government inner workings, there is little doubt that “Veep” is possibly the most appropriate show for our political times. After all, Americans did just emerge from one of the most absurd and sensationalized elections in recent years. Every beat of real world politics in the last year has felt like an episode of “Veep” with cartoonish characters dealing with one controversy after another, all while firing and endless barrage of insults at each other.

One would think that the show wouldn’t be able to sustain in such a climate. After all, how does one lampoon the political world when it is already a lampoon of itself in real life? Luckily though, the absurd state of politics helps “Veep” stand out rather than hindering it. Yes, Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” is a masterful work of television writing, but today, it feels a bit too optimistic. In fact, it seems to represent an ideal of governing as opposed to any kind of actual reality.

Yet, as much as “Veep” thrives on portraying those in government as buffoonish chickens, running around with their head cut off, the show has taken a much different approach this season. Ironically, the series has chosen to remove itself from the oval office during its current season. That choice may be a disappointment to some, but it offers the show’s writers a chance to explore a different aspect of political life, one that few other series have touched on.

After five seasons of Selina Meyer and her staff causing chaos within the oval office, both with her as president and vice president, the series has split the characters apart. Meyer is now living a life outside of leadership but struggling to remain relevant. In many ways, the current season offers a greater example of Meyer’s narcissism. In the debut episode, she addresses her family, along with professional bag-handler Gary, about a decision to run for president a second time. It’s thus far the season’s funniest moment, if only because everyone around Meyer knows it is a terrible lie. Gary pretends to act excited, but only behind a nervous grin, while Meyer’s daughter immediately bursts into an explosive volcano of tears.

The season’s opener sets us up for another trek down the campaign trail but ultimately it’s a play on our expectations. It’s still a show about narcissism at high levels of power but now focusing on how these people function in a world where they are not constantly at the center of attention, risking to disappear into history.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Jesse Nussman is a senior at UNCC majoring in Communications and minoring in film. He is an avid film lover and writes about various pop-culture subjects within film, television, and music.

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Jesse Nussman is a senior at UNCC majoring in Communications and minoring in film. He is an avid film lover and writes about various pop-culture subjects within film, television, and music.

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