As the entire world prepares for the end of Game of Thrones, wondering who will finally sit upon the Iron Throne (or what’s left of it anyway), another HBO series featuring a female protagonist on a quest for power wrapped up its run as well. I am, of course, referring to the absolutely sensational Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and one of the all-time great ensemble casts in the history of TV comedy.
While millions of us sat back in shocked awe as Daenerys Targaryen (First of Her Name, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, etc.) finally flipped the coin and went full Targaryen by roasting the entire city of Kings Landing and all its people, Selina Meyer was also leaving scorched earth behind in her quest for power. It was a finale that should teach its own course on how to produce a perfect ending to a series. All the characters got a send-off and the central character got exactly what she wanted, at the expense of everything that she brought with her along the way.
Before I go any further, it’s worth noting that this series more or less had me at hello with the casting of Louis-Dreyfus in the title role. Being a man about to enter my 40s, I came of age during the NBC Thursday night one-two super-punch of Seinfeld and Friends. It’s safe to say that most guys and gals my age identified their crew with one of those two series. Most guys had a crush on either one of the female Friends or the coolest girl in the gang, Elaine Benes. I was definitely the latter. Yeah, Jennifer Aniston had looks, but Elaine was the girl so damned funny that she rolled with the guys while still not being one of them. Like all the characters on Seinfeld, Elaine was both sympathetic and hilariously self-centered. She made the same vacuous dating chases Jerry and George did, was up for a caper like Kramer always was, and yet also stunned every single time they showed up at an award show, ready to gather some loot. Elaine was the TV girlfriend I wanted to have sit in on a round of drinks with my crew. The shades of that character present and unleashed in her portrayal of Selina Meyer created an instant connection for me with the show.
But as much as the shades of Elaine present in Selina Meyer made her familiar, it was the crafting of this very different character that made Veep the classic I hope it is remembered to be. No amount of credit could possibly be enough to recognize the caliber of writing behind this series. Fast paced, sharp, and stinging back-and-forth between all the characters made for a series that was a true pleasure for fans of great dialogue. Though it was great to watch, I firmly believe that each episode of Veep could stand the test of time as an audio-only series as well. At the center of all that witty repartee was Louis-Dreyfus, delivering lines loaded with sarcasm, coarse sexuality, and self-deprecating comedy rolled together with arrogance, poise, and a commitment to being self-centered that would make Elaine Benes look like Mother Theresa.
Selina Meyer wanted to be president of the United States more than anything in the world. In this series, she climbs that mountain not once, but twice, and leaves a trail of personal devastation in her wake. Selina is the amoral politician we all fear is out there, willing to do or say anything in any context for even the slightest of political gains. She is cynical, devious, and also highly flawed. These character traits all steam and simmer over the series’ first six seasons before coming to a full boil in the seventh and final, where Selina truly demonstrates just how far she is willing to go in her pursuit of the presidency. The final shot of the character alone in the Oval Office after alienating or dispatching with her entire supporting cast is both fitting and somewhat tragic. Here we have a protagonist that gets everything she wanted in the end but it is at the expense of everything she had.
An article praising Veep would not be complete without also noting the incredible strength of its extended, ensemble cast. From the hapless doofus, Jonah Ryan, to Marjorie, former secret service agent and Selina’s daughter’s wife, each character is given an arc and a voice of their own that fits into the greater “music” of the show’s dialogue. Tight scenes are densely packed with quips, dialogues, and asides that come at you so fast, one belly laugh is all it takes to miss another killer punchline.
I could literally gush about Veep all day. I love the premise, the delivery, and each and every one of the characters. It is a series that has a beginning, middle, and perfect ending. It also features my old TV crush, Elaine, like me, all grown up and operating completely, unapologetically at a level rarely seen by women or men in an ongoing comedic role. Veep is a comedy for lovers of language, US politics, and plain old fashioned dick jokes. I cannot recommend this series enough and look forward to starting it from the top and enjoying all its classic moments over again.
Veep, the complete series, is available on demand through HBO and is worth watching from start to finish.