Essentially a limp version of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" against a D.C. backdrop, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus gamely playing to the absurdity of the situations, but yielding only modest returns.

Selina Meyer - Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Gary - Tony Hale
Amy - Anna Chlumsky
Mike - Matt Walsh
Dan - Reid Scott
Jonah - Timothy C. Simons
Sue - Sufe Bradshaw

The vice presidency has always been ripe for satire as an office merely close to greatness, with little real responsibility. Yet HBO’s “Veep” chooses to mine that scenario for laughs at a slightly misguided time — after arguably the most influential VP ever, Dick Cheney — and does so in disappointingly pallid fashion, conspicuously sidestepping questions of policy or politics. What remains is essentially a limp version of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” against a D.C. backdrop, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus gamely playing to the absurdity of the situations, but yielding only modest returns. Perhaps appropriately, a show about an always-second office becomes second-tier TV.

Unlike, say, “Commander in Chief,” “Veep” doesn’t really get caught up in gender issues, other than some irritating wardrobe/style comparisons between Louis-Dreyfus’ Vice President Selina Meyer and the first lady — like the President, unseen through three episodes, a bit like Charlie Brown’s parents.

Instead, “Veep” focuses on backstage matters involving the world’s ultimate understudy, the political equivalent of “All About Eve.” Still, Selina’s bickering staff isn’t particularly interesting, with the lone exception of Gary (Tony Hale), her ever-present right hand, who feeds her key information at every meet-and-greet ceremony, like a whispering small-talk machine.

Beyond that, the series proves strangely defanged — cynical, but not especially smart. For starters, there’s nary a clue about the VP’s political bent, other than her preoccupation with a clean-jobs act, her sole chance to place some kind of imprint on the administration.

One can see downplaying the politics, but completely expunging them — especially in this day and age, amid such polarized times — feels too coy and precious, for no particular reason. What’s the point in hanging out with a politician and not sensing where they stand?

As a consequence, the result isn’t so much a savvy skewering of D.C. foibles as “The Office” with F-bombs — which makes the show less distinctive and pay-TV worthy than it ought to be.

That’s especially surprising given New York magazine columnist Frank Rich’s involvement as one of the producers, though the show’s driving force is Armando Iannucci (“In the Loop”), who wrote and directed the pilot. The program also has the misfortune to come close on the heels of “Game Change,” an HBO movie that demonstrated just how entertaining politics can be.

Louis-Dreyfus is certainly a gifted clown, but “Veep” limits her to one form of farce repeated over and over — the awkward exchange or little indignity, including those inflicted by the president’s flunky Jonah (Timothy C. Simons), who frequently pops into the VP’s offices, invariably with bad news.

“Veep” sparks to life only occasionally, the most inspired bit coming in the second episode, when the Vice President briefly thinks she might get promoted — a well, presumably, the series won’t be able to dip into very often.

Otherwise, “Veep” appears less concerned with being relevant than merely wacky. The series thus becomes the weak link in a Sunday lineup punctuated by two buzzworthy if very different properties — the sweeping “Game of Thrones” and half-hour “Girls.”

HBO’s selection of “Veep” as their running mate does little to enhance an otherwise winning ticket.


HBO, Sun. April 22, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Maryland by Dundee. Executive producers, Armando Iannucci, Frank Rich, Christopher Godsick; co-executive producers, Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche; producers, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephanie Laing; director, Iannucci; writers, Iannucci, Blackwell.

Crew: Camera, Jimmy Lindsey; production designer, Clayton Hartley; editor, Billy Sneddon; music, Rupert Gregson-Williams, Christopher Willis; music supervisor, Evyen J. Klean; casting, Allison Jones. 30 MIN.

Cast: Selina Meyer - Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Gary - Tony Hale
Amy - Anna Chlumsky
Mike - Matt Walsh
Dan - Reid Scott
Jonah - Timothy C. Simons
Sue - Sufe Bradshaw

More TV

  • 9-1-1: LONE STAR: L-R: Rob Lowe

    TV Ratings: '9-1-1: Lone Star' Starts Strong Behind NFC Championship Game

    “9-1-1 Lone Star” got off to a flaming start for Fox in the TV ratings behind the NFC Championship game. The Rob Lowe-fronted series premiere to a 3.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.5 million viewers in the time zone-adjusted ratings, which represents easily the best scripted debut of the 2019-2020 season. “Lone Star” had [...]

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

  • Editorial Use OnlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    TV Ratings: NFL's AFC, NFC Championship Games Down From 2019

    The NFL’s AFC and NFC championship games made for a blockbuster Sunday of football for CBS and Fox, but viewership of the games that determine the contenders for the Super Bowl was down from 2019 levels. CBS’ AFC championship in the 3 p.m. ET afternoon slot delivered 41.1 million viewers as the Kansas City Chiefs [...]

  • Medici TV Show

    Vuulr Online Rights Market Makes Global Expansion at NATPE

    Singapore-based Vuulr, an online content marketplace for film and TV rights, is expanding from regional to global operations. The move was announced ahead of NATPE, one of the oldest face-to-face TV rights markets, this week launching its tenth edition in Miami, Florida (Jan 21-23). The Vuulr platform is free to use for buyers and for [...]

  • What to Watch on TV This

    What to Watch on TV This Week: ‘Picard' Premieres and 'Shrill' Returns

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Star Trek: Picard” beams into existence on CBS All Access and “Shrill” returns [...]

  • SAG Awards 2020: What You Didn't

    SAG Awards 2020: From Charlize Theron to 'Parasite,' What You Didn't See on TV

    Brad Pitt made a crack about his marriages. Robert De Niro got political. And Jennifer Aniston talked about appearing in a commercial for Bob’s Big Boy. Those were just some of thing that happened on stage at the SAG Awards that were broadcast on TNT/TBS on Sunday night. However, Variety was inside the Shrine Auditorium [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content