In which Arts Desk and DCist discuss Veep, HBO’s comedy series about the vice presidency
Partial disclosure light, Ben: I’d rather spend my morning talking about what happened on last night’s gut-punching episode of Mad Men. Instead, we’ll have to talk about what didn’t happen on Veep.
You called it, sir: Selina wasn’t pregnant long. Early on, Gary lets the news slip that the vice president has had a miscarriage—-which Mike, Dan, and Amy greet with some feigned sympathy, but they know it’s a welcome P.R. development. But the brief pregnancy has yielded repercussions both public and personal—-rumors (through the pesky blogosphere) that Selina is indeed with child, and tensions between Selina and her paramour Ted (whom we can now confirm is an attorney). It’s bad enough that Selina’s vice presidency is crumbling amid an unsavory rumor (which is kind of true), the appearance that she secretly pushed for an amendment the president opposed (actually, Dan did it), her firing of a Secret Service agent who smiled at her (actually, he was transferred), and the fact that her clean-jobs commission isn’t all that clean. Now she’s pretty sure she’s gonna get dumped.
If she doesn’t get eaten alive first. In the episode’s manic, excellent cold open—-it had the same feel as that incredible elevator sequence in In the Loop, didn’t it?—-Selina’s aides are scrambling over the phone while a right-wing talk-radio host (on CROK-FM, no less) digs into Selina. Mike promises to break out some “Mike Kwon Do.” “She is gonna go ape-shit menstrual over this” says Jonah, whose many roommates don’t appreciate his potty talk. “If this is broken I’m adding it to your fucking rent,” he says to one roommate who attempts to dispose of Jonah’s Blackberry along with the trash. That might be the most blatantly sexist language we’ve heard on the show, but it’s nothing compared to how this episode shakes out for Amy.
Which we’ll get to. First, Selina’s crew has to deal with her numerous encroaching scandals, many of which are detailed in a negative ad called “Selina Sellouta.” Tactic No. 1 is full disclosure of vice-presidential documents—-or, well, “partial disclosure light.” Best to keep quiet the fact that an oil lobbyist is quietly weighing in on Selina’s clean-jobs commission.
The veep allows her staff to leave in a few nibbles of scandal—-her residence’s visitor logs, for example, which include Ted’s overnight stays. Also, an email containing birthday-gift suggestions for an unnamed West Wing aide. (Yep, Jonah. Ideas include a cake in the shape of a dick and a hat in the shape of a dick.) Crisis solved? Hell no. Word gets out that Mike has accused the transferred Secret Service agent of “smiling like an ape”—-and Selina realizes the only way out of this hole is firing someone.
I must pause at this point to note that I’ve written nearly 500 words and I’m still mired in plot. A whole lot happened this episode, but the compression worked; unlike last week’s milquetoast episode, last night’s rarely paused to revel in the comedy of embarrassment, which is far from this show’s strongest suit. But what did you make of Mike, Dan, and Amy’s half-hearted suicide pact, when Selina announces one of them will have to be her scapegoat? And what of poor Ted, dumped by Selina’s bodyman? Speaking of Gary, we learned a lot about what actual loyalty counts for in Selina’s camp; he attempts to resign after learning it was his mishap that fueled the pregnancy rumors. Selina rejects Gary’s offer to resign. (Again, I think heart-clutchingly to Mad Men.)
As for the Dan, Mike, and Amy Suicide Squad: “OK kittens, time to get drowned,” says Selina as she calls them to her office. They all get to keep their jobs, but Amy’s the one who’ll fall on the veep’s sword. She was the pregnant one, Amy will tell the press. Her state of mind led her to ax the grinning Secret Service agent. Ouch, Selina, rough stuff. But did Amy deserve her punishment? Or was she merely the only potential scapegoat with ovaries?