By Maciek Bancarzewski
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This article is over 8 years, 7 months old
Armando Iannucci, writer and director of The Thick of It and In the Loop, here takes his political satire from Whitehall to the White House. Set in the office of the fictional vice-president Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld, Veep was touted as an American version of The Thick of It. Sadly the series does not match the comicality or great observation of its British original.
Issue 381

“The number two” is overpowered by a phantom president who never appears on screen. The first few episodes show Meyer struggling to accommodate the interests of both Congress environmentalists and oil barons: a task that is, of course, full of spectacular blunders and a shambolic ending. Veep needs to be complimented for depicting the close ties between big business and the political establishment.

However, in this series Iannucci fails to fully explore any wider political context, concentrating mainly on the administration itself.

Meyer is approached by other politicians far too sporadically, and too often the plot relates to the vice-president’s personal life, including her relationship, her daughter or her pet. This turns Veep into quite an ordinary sitcom. There’s no mention of the Tea Party activity or immigration policies that would make a perfect mocking ground.

Relatively good humour does not compensate for the absence of the great characters of Iannucci’s other work. There’s no Malcolm Tucker style character, with his sublime vulgar rhetoric, or even the less charismatic Phil Smith, Peter Mannion’s right hand man, endlessly referring to fantasy literature.

Swearing itself – mastered in The Thick of It with the help of Iannucci’s ‘swearing consultants’ – is also unconvincing and uttered in a totally impassionate manner. Where The Thick of It intelligently offends, sophisticatedly ridicules or sarcastically ripostes, Veep is just about funny. Many lines are simply copied from The Thick of It but don’t really fit here.

Lacking the realistic intrigue of the last series of The Thick of It, Veep makes little attempt to present any complex political mechanisms. While the British series were scary in their reflection of reality, explicitly alluding to real events such as the Leveson inquiry and the set-up of a bank with public money, scenes in Veep seem very unlikely. Instead we get a polished “one woman show” with a handful of fairly good gags.

The second series, where Meyer goes into international politics, is currently being shown on HBO.

Veep is directed by Armando Iannucci. The DVD is released 3 June

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