‘Veep’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 5): “Nicknames”
We’re a few weeks into Veep now, and despite some high praise in some high places, guess what? I still don’t really enjoy it. I’m not the harshest critic out there, and it’s true, the show has the trappings of something I’d enjoy from the titular casting of a Seinfeld alumnus to Buster Bluth waiting in the wings with her hand sanitizer. As you might expect by the way, Buster, or Tony Hale as he’s actually called, is the best part of the show as Gary. He’s Selena’s handmaiden essentially, waiting on her every gracelessly delivered whim. Such whims include but are not limited to the command “Get me something” for which Gary instantly knows what to get her.
The problem with Veep was best summarized by a writer of the incredibly-funny ABC show, Happy Endings on twitter when he said the show was “talky.” It will talk at you until you’re the one who’s blue in the face and you don’t know which end is up as Selena struts through another doorway cursing under her breath. There’s a lot going on in this show all the time. The mise-en-scène is a constant flurry of people throwing paperwork at each other, people running up to Selena with coffees and handshakes, and the trill of talk bout “clean jobs” which is essentially meaningless to the viewer. There’s a whole lot of arguing and babbling between Selena and her staff, but despite her acting (which isn’t half bad), it still sounds like she doesn’t know what she’s talking about—and not in the way the show intends.
I might be going out on a limb here, but sometimes when you go see an improv comedy troupe, and they’re given a situation, they’ll argue back and forth at each other trying to escalate said situation for the sake of comedy. When one person doesn’t know what to say, they deflect back on the other person by continuing to question them all the while raising their voice because they can’t think of the next logical place to go. It’s an internal nervousness that reeks of un-professionalism, and somehow I get this sense watching Veep. There’s prattle aplenty, but I don’t think even the actors know what it’s about or where it leaves the narrative. This makes Veep seems scantily plotted, and exhausting, even though it clocks in at only 26 minutes long.
In this weeks episode, Selena is dismayed to find out her schedule is empty. Later that night she has a “Firemen’s dinner” (purpose unclear) so she and her crack-team get on the speech writing. Selena doesn’t want any self-deprecating jokes this time around, but she’s dismayed to find out that people have all sorts of derogatory nicknames for her online. She has her team bombard her with the negative, from possible spin on her soon-to-be-given, horrible speech to all of her awful nicknames, though Gary is quick to inform her that “VPILF” is actually a positive term meaning “Vice President I’d Like to do it with.”
Maybe Veep just isn’t my type of show. And that might be because I have honestly no clue what type of show it is. It’s a pseudo-mockumentary centered around an extremely unlikeable character. We’re not given any reason to like Selena. She’s cold, she’s bossy, she’s arrogant and on top of all that it’s been hinted that she comes from a family of means. These are hard things to sympathize with, but that might even be the point. Sometimes I get the feeling that Veep is trying to provide viewers with a look behind the curtain into white house micro-management. It’s trying to give them a look at how bumbling, silly, secretly-unpopular and unsure of themselves these elected officials can be. It’s attempting to seem like a stressful comedy of errors about the blind leading the blind. I get that much. Sadly while watching it, as a viewer I feel like I’m trying to help an entire pack of blind people cross the street at once and I’m the one getting thrown under a bus.
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