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HBO’s ‘Veep’ finds unique place in wave of political satire

Without giving anything away, there’s a moment, a single, silent reaction moment, in the pilot episode of upcoming HBO series “Veep” that is so pitch-perfect, no new TV series in 2011-12 might have a better hook.

This presidential election year threatens a risk of political comedy overload, particularly with “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” operating at full-throttle, but it looks like you’d better make room in April for “Veep,” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as vice president Selina Meyers and exec produced by Armando Iannucci of savvy British film comedy “In the Loop.”

In some ways, folks involved are positioning “Veep” as the anti-“West Wing.” Though they are striving for authenticity, the halcyon days of Pres. Bartlett are behind.

“I love ‘The West Wing,’ but I think that portrayal of Washington as a good and noble heartland wouldn’t wash right now,” the Glasgow-born Iannucci said at the show’s press session at the Television Critics Assn. winter gathering in Pasadena today.

“You don’t need a political degree to watch. … We never mention the party; we never name the president. It’s not about the minutiae of policy, it’s about how people operate in these circumstances.”

Louis-Dreyfus seems well at ease in and with her role, which offers a combination of idealism and pragmatism, ego and humility.

“Her platform isn’t phony,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “She does have a desire to have a clean jobs task force, as we call it, but she does have to make some compromises. She doesn’t  have a phony set of ideals, but she wants to stay alive as a political animal.”

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