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HBO Gets into the Political Satire Game with Veep

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Much like Aaron Sorkin, who’s finally getting into the HBO original series game with The Newsroom, Armando Ianucci – the British writer/director of the series The Thick of It and the film In the Loop – seems a natural fit to be an HBO showrunner, almost to the point that it’s a wonder it took this long for him to do an HBO show.

His brand of gleefully profane political satire jibes with the network’s freedom from any FCC enforced broadcast standards regarding language, and showing a powerful institution to be filled with shallow, petty, insane, and otherwise horrible people is a time-honored subject for HBO comedies. Washington chicanery also seems a natural subject for an HBO series but, amazingly, this is only the second ever foray into the subject for the network.

The previous attempt, the bizarre Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney-produced K Street, in which actors playing fictional characters appeared alongside real-life political figures playing themselves, was a short-lived disappointment.

Ianucci’s new, Washington DC-set HBO series Veep  stars Julia-Louis Dreyfus as the Vice President of the United States. While the scenario of an attractive, youngish woman as second in command may remind one of Sarah Palin, all the press for the show makes it clear that none of the characters in the show are analogous in any way to real life American political figures. And, in an approach that may seem strange to Americans accustomed to the current US political environment in which everything is seen as ideological or partisan in some way, what political party any of the characters are a member of is never to be revealed.

Nor, apparently, will any conflict hinge on different philosophies of government or on stances on the issues of the day (though the fact that liberal columnist Frank Rich is an executive producer will probably not make the show too appealing for conservative viewers.) Instead, everything will hinge on petty personal conflicts, ambition, ego etc.

New York TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz has an interestingly mixed review of the show and particularly this aspect of it. While he seems to find the show very funny he also says “Iannucci has a tactically limited view of political skulduggery, the type showcased in the insufferably cutesy columns of Maureen Dowd. It’s all rather weightless: just your usual sitcom-style misunderstandings and bruised egos and “complications ensue,” with no sense that anything larger is at stake.”


In addition to Louis-Dreyfus Veep stars a host of other comedy fan favorites including Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale as the Vice President’s “Body Man,” the recently resurgent Anna Chlumsky who was also in In the Loop .

Veep will premiere on HBO this coming Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern time.  As they did with Girls HBO is going to make the Veep pilot available for free at many venues online including HBO.com and YouTube starting Monday morning. See the trailer:

 

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