We live in the age of snark. It’s everywhere—in print, online, and in many modern sitcoms. It seems that the public’s appetite for sarcasm and smugness is insatiable. HBO’s Veep epitomizes this approach, as the entire focus of the series is snark. Ostensibly a political satire centered on Selina Meyer (Selina Meyer), the Vice President of the United States, the central joke is that everyone in her office—including her—is incompetent and self-centered. The President is an oft-discussed but never-seen presence. Veep is often quite funny, thanks largely to the skilled ensemble cast, but the eight-episode first season (available on Blu-ray March 26) ultimately only hints at greater potential.
The good news for anyone who might normally shy away from political humor is that Veep has so far remained wisely non-partisan. We don’t know which party these folks represent, only that they are supremely shallow and only have their own best interests at heart. The running theme of Selina’s big project—a “clean jobs” bill—is entirely secondary to watching the in-fighting amongst her staff. This works both ways. Viewers don’t need to know anything about politics to enjoy the show, but that also means the satire is always only skin deep.
Highlights of the first season include “Frozen Yoghurt” in which a Selina’s appearance at a family-owned frozen dessert eatery goes horribly wrong. Veep isn’t above low-brow humor and this episode definitely delves into that territory. In “Baseball,” Selina tries to push healthy options to a congregation of overweight fast food execs, not that she even cares about improving their products’ nutritional content. The loose plotlines for each episode aren’t especially interesting in and of themselves, but the one-liners—usually delivered with just the right level of off-the cuff believability—are the source of the biggest laughs.
Louis-Dreyfus is fine as the title character, but some of her cohorts wind up getting more laughs. Despite a characterization arguably too close to Buster from Arrested Development, Tony Hale steals his share of scenes as Gary, Selina’s devoted aide. Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) plays Amy, Selina’s chief of staff who finds herself increasingly compromising her own integrity as the series progresses. They work well together, even if their various witticisms seem a little unnaturally at-the-ready. Seemingly everyone in the cast speaks like an observational stand-up comedian, always ready with a zinger for any situation.