This is shaping up to become one of the year's biggest disappointments, speaking as a huge fan of Armando Iannucci. Veep just isn't very funny. I sat stony-faced throughout this half-hour, trying to determine why it's not working for me. Is it because all of the characters are unlikable? While you don't have to like characters to enjoy watching them, you need to find them entertainingly despicable at the very least. Veep's posse are just a mixture of bland stereotypes and objectionable idiots. Are we supposed to find it funny that Dan (Reid Scott) is ruthlessly picking on the veep's aide Gary (Tony Hale)? It just comes across as horrible bullying of a dim man doing his best and fulfilling his job role perfectly well.
Is the show failing because the actors aren't in tune with what's expected of them? As anyone can tell by examining the BBC's Office and NBC's remake, Brits and Americans generally approach the mockumentary format in different ways. I get the impression Iannucci's shooting the show like it's The Thick Of It USA (which it kind of is) and expecting comparative results to his BBC series, but the American cast are visibly behaving like they're on NBC's The Office (minus the talking heads), or a studio sitcom that's filming single camera exterior scenes. It's all very strange. Quite a few of the actors are over-egging their performance, too—particularly, most regretfully, star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She's really trying, bless her, but it's becoming obvious she isn't lead actress material.
Overall, I'm flummoxed by how lifeless and dull Veep is. There was a serviceable story and a few good lines here, but it just didn't play. It boils down to a paucity of laugh-out-loud jokes, rewarding interplay, three-dimensional characters to care about, and a lead performance strong enough to hold it all together. Veep isn't showing evidence of any of these things, and I have a funny feeling it's not going to.
written by Simon Blackwell & Armando Iannucci (story by Simon Blackwell) / directed by Armando Iannucci / 29 April 2012 / HBO