- WEEKLY TV PICKS
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Review: VEEP, 1.1 – "Fundraiser"
The pilot, "Fundraiser", saw Selena swinging from one professional humiliation to the next: beginning with a half-empty function after a PR disaster with a comment about biodegradable cutlery replacing all plastic; a meeting with a senator who ignores Selena, her obvious superior; and a slip of the tongue at an important press conference the President couldn't attend, resulting in Selena accidentally saying the offensive phrase "hoisted by our own retard".
My misgivings probably wouldn't matter if there were sterling performances to relish, but competency is all the pilot demonstrates. I like Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus a great deal, but her character didn't grab my attention, and the people she's surrounded by feel like yawning archetypes. There's time for these characters to develop complexities, because few pilot arrive with everything fully-formed (even ones with the benefit of two "trial run" UK projects), so we'll see if Veep's characters settle into some interesting grooves after a few more episodes.
Iannucci and co-writer Simon Blackwell (The Thick Of It, Peep Show) are two of the UK's best comedy writers, so their script is still peppered with witty one-liners and amusing quips. I'm just not sure the Capitol Hill milieu is necessarily as funny as its Westminster counterpart. You tend to perceive the movers-and-shakers of Washington D.C as capable and powerful people, even if their politics can be crazier and scarier than British policies. Veep should perhaps aim to skewer the unnerving side of American politics, because I didn't find any of the characters inherently funny as personalities. Sure, they said funny things, but that's a different thing altogether. And if we're getting picky about the use of language here, when Americans swear it rarely has the same effect as British swearing--which is half-caustic, half-hilarious, and more volubly creative. American swearing just is what it is: profane. Iannucci was therefore wise to avoid having an "American version" of potty-mouthed Tucker on Veep, but he perhaps should have included a different monster to grab this show by the scruff of the neck. It really needs someone to inject vinegar into its veins.
Overall, Veep's pilot disappointed me but I'm willing to stick around to see if problems can be overcome once the actors grow more confident and Iannucci finds his voice (or American accent). It doesn't help that The Thick Of It's illustrious shadow looms over this show for British eyes, which we can't help but compare it to, but I hope Veep finds some unique targets for its satire and utilises the US setting for maximum effect.
written by Armando Iannucci & Simon Blackwell (story by Armando Iannucci) / directed by Armando Iannucci / 22 April 2012 / HBO