HBO’s Veep returns for its third season in fine form this week with “Some New Beginnings.” Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is out hocking a book “she,” actually her staff, wrote, trying to raise her national profile, while still not being allowed to announce she’s running for president since the POTUS hasn’t publicly said he won’t seek re-election. This is particular self-serving, since the season premiere takes place on the day of Mike’s (Matt Walsh) wedding, which she is missing.
Selina is neither a good person nor a bad person; she’s just a politician. She plays the game and plays it pretty well, or else she’d never have achieved the Veep position, even if she isn’t the best at what she does. But she doesn’t always treat her staff so good. She’s nice enough that they remain loyal and hard-working, but not so nice that anyone volunteers to travel with her, the whole group attending the nuptials of their co-worker, rather than being out on tour.
We see this especially in Selina’s performance at a congressman’s funeral, which she attends after blowing off a line of people waiting to have her sign their books, which she’d grown tired of. She’s basically there to recruit a campaign manager, but he’s already left, and so she ends up making a speech as well. It’s a touching tribute that makes a lot of people happy, but for Selina, it’s all about winning over supporters, and she’s not shy at all about using the same words again when talking to Mike later that evening.
It’s worth noting that two of her staffers, Amy (Anna Chlumsky), who’s been with Selina forever, and Dan (Reid Scott), who ends up doing her a great service in “Some New Beginnings,” are both trying their best to earn the campaign manager spot. Selina is having a rough time deciding between them, but their feelings or efforts don’t really weigh into her thought process. Instead, she’ll go with whoever helps her the most, perfectly willing to toss both aside when a respected, experienced candidate appears to be available.
Does this make her undeserving of the highest office in the land? Well, that’s debatable. There’s something to be said for being good to those who are good to you. Then again, all of these characters work in Washington and they know how the system operates. They willingly chose to participate, so cannot just cry foul if Selina follows a typical path.
Viewers likely won’t have to worry about this, anyway, because the series is called Veep, not Pres. The premise is so successful because Selina never gets what she wants, always bumbling by in the funniest of manners. If she were to actually meet her goals, it would kind of ruin things. The title of her book, which doubles as the title of this episode, proves that yet again. So either the president will have to change his mind again, or Selina will wind up on the ticket below someone else, likely because of her own missteps, more than because anyone else is more deserving.
The best part of Veep is that these characters have become so well-defined and entertaining. The sibling-esque rivalry between Dan and Amy is excellent. Gary (Tony Hale) can’t help but slip right into his old habits in service to Mike’s bride, Wendy Keegan (Kathy Najimy, King of the Hill), for the day. The way the staff can’t let go of their phones, even for an hour, is so fitting. Jonah (Timothy Simons), of course, crashes the party, at which he is not wanted. And Ben (Kevin Dunn) may be new to the main cast, but he slips right into patter with Selina as if he’s always been there. Ditto guest star Sam Richardson (The Office) playing Selina’s on-the-road assistant, Richard, whom I hope we see again.
What may be the most unexpected development in “Some New Beginnings” is that Dan gets Jonah fired. It’s entirely Jonah’s fault, being indiscreet about info he leaks concerning the White House, but Dan helps the annoying guy dig his own grave, and delights at his downfall. Now, I hate Jonah as much as the next fan, but we need him present to hate. His being escorted out of the West Wing by security is laugh-out-loud funny, but he has to stay in the series somehow because he’s way too good an antagonist to let go. Hopefully, this will work itself out next week.
Veep is one of the smartest, silliest sitcoms on TV. It’s high-quality, HBO-level slapstick, with a brilliant cast of actors and writers. I cannot stress enough just how much I love it, probably having become my favorite half-hour premium-cable program currently running. If you’re not watching, you can probably jump in at any old point in the run without being too lost, and I highly recommend doing so.