For me at least The Thick of It has to be one of the best British sitcoms of the last ten years, with the political satire going onto spawn a Oscar-nominated film in In the Loop as well as scoop a whole lot of BAFTAs. I’ve always been baffled that creator Armando Iannucci has never tried to take the comedy Stateside, as we all know that politics is just as if not more of a joke in America than it is in Britain but now thankfully he has bought us Veep.
The programme is set around the office of the vice president (often shortened to Veep), Selina Mayer, a politician who has realised that the role she has comes with very little power and just exists in case the president wants somebody to represent him at a certain function. Like with The Thick Of It, Veep also focuses on a small group of people who work for the central politician and in this programme they are headed up by the young but ambitious chief-of-staff Amy, as well as featuring Selina’s aide the always helpful Gary, the old-school head of press Mike and her seemingly sane personal assistant Sue while the show’s main antagonist is Jonah the liaison from the White House who often flaunts the fact that he works for a much more powerful figure.
Though she has little power, Selina still wants to make a name for herself so sets out to focus on a clean jobs initiative as well as wanting to make corn starch utensils a thing of the future, eventually replacing plastic forks and knives in the White House. It is this wish that is the first thing that gets her into trouble after a tweet gets out about her plans, she angers the powerful plastic tycoons and must try to salvage her reputation. She then tries to rebuild her image at a fundraiser however after initially charming the crowd she makes another joke about people with learning disabilities and so has a second fire to put out.
Her staff are not making things any easier for her as Amy accidentally signs her own name, rather than Selena’s, on a condolence card to the widow of a dead congressman. The other main plot in episode one sees the smarmy Dan trying to get a place on Selina’s staff, after she encounters him on a visit to Senator Hallows a woman who he later betrays to advance his own career. Amy is less than thrilled with Dan’s manipulation of Selena though describing him with some choice dialogue which I won’t use here but you can imagine the type of swearing that is employed throughout Veep, because after all it is created by the man who bought us Malcolm Tucker.
I have to say I quite enjoyed Veep which obviously has its roots in The Thick of It, as both feature ineffectual female politicians – in the UK show it is the MP for Social Affairs and citizenship Nicola Murray – while also focusing on the bitchy staff that work for them. Key to the success of Veep is Julia Louis-Dreyfuss who makes Selina someone who thinks she is a lot more important than she is often reeling off a list of projects her office is currently working on however you can see it in her eyes that she realises most of these are worthless endeavours. Personally I like the fact that every time she enters her office she asks assistant Sue if the president has called to which the answer is always no. My personal stand-out of the support staff was Gary, played by former Arrested Development star Tony Hale, who is constantly there for the president whether it be hovering around her ear to inform her who she is currently talking to or writing the name of Governor Hallows’ daughter on Selina’s coffee cup he is always there for her. I also enjoyed Timothy Simons as Jonah who often acts like an over-excited schoolboy regaling Selina’s disinterested staff with anecdotes about small conversations he has had with the president. Adding a sense of normality to the show is Amy, who I didn’t realise till afterwards was played by former child star Anna Chlumsky of My Girl fame, she is the only one who is slightly sane however she also makes big mistakes such as the faux pas with the condolence card.
My main issue was that while there were some funny moments I never found myself really laughing out loud like I so often do with the Thick of It. I think that is mainly down to the fact that there is no Malcolm Tucker equivalent here with nobody on hand to reel Selena in when she goes too far or makes a mistake despite their being a few prickly characters, such as head of communications Mike, every person working for the vice-president is presented as slightly weak throughout the show. Thankfully Iannuci’s satirical edge still translates beautifully across the pond as he points out the ridiculous nature of American politics with my favourite line possibly being after Selina questions whether she should use plastic or corn starch cutlery Mike advices her to, ‘stay away from the utensils as they have become too politicised.’ Veep is certainly a likeable show with everybody involved being utterly believable in their various roles and indeed it does have some very amusing moments as Iannuci picks apart the fact that the vice president’s role really isn’t that important at all. I’m just hoping in the upcoming weeks that we get a few more belly laughs which I fully expect from a man who has created a show that has made me chuckle so many times in the past.
What did you think of Veep? Did you enjoy it as much as The Thick of It? Leave Your Comments Below.