A Salute To VEEP
“This country needs to man up,” Selina Meyer (Julia Louise Dreyfuss) yells during a Presidential candidate debate in the final season of Veep. Meyer is going off script, but to her surprise, she’s getting a positive response as the crowd gives her a standing ovation.
For six seasons, Meyer’s political life has been disastrous. But power has never been on Meyer’s vision board, she’s had plenty of power throughout the series – she was President – but in the seventh, and final season it seems like she may get what she’s always wanted: respect, well, sort of.
Victory is always a clusterfuck on Veep, a show that’s strength is the politics of being “likable” over the mechanics of the American political system.
Veep began in 2012, in the middle of an election where Barack Obama ran for re-election against Mitt Romney. The Obama era will forever be defined by the cult of personality built around the President and how he blended pop culture with his message. Obama could easily appear on Between Two Ferns, make a cameo on The Tonight Show to slow jam the news with Jimmy Fallon and then deliver an address to the nation. Mitt Romney struggled to register as a human being. As noted by writer Todd VanDerWerff, Obama was the perfect pop culture president – for better or worse.
The timing of Meyer and her staff’s arrival was perfect for the political climate satirizes. The desperation to be admired is what made Veep uncomfortable to watch before it sprung its hilarious satirical point-of-view, which isn't easy; real politics is doing a good job of mocking itself, making the difficult curve of the show’s satire harder with each season.
To quote the critic Alissa Wilkinson: “My current favorite pastime is trying to pinpoint exactly which year the Veep universe split off from our own.”
The presence of the idiotic, Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), who goes from White House staffer to Senator and, eventually, a Presidential candidate, is proof it’s a broken system. The career roundabouts of Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) and Dan Egan (Reid Scott), who always find a gig somewhere, are evidence that failure in politics is not a hinderance to career progression. There’s even a place for Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), who follows Meyer like a sucker fish, desperate for approval. Yet the world never falls apart in Veep because the government is held together by a symbiosis of incompetence; two wrongs do make a right.
What becomes clear in the final season of Veep is that we need it more than ever heading toward the 2020 election and beyond. Each episode has the same energy of South Park episodes that are written the week they air. There are times where it feels prophetic in the same way articles from The Onion pre-date news reported by The New York Times. Veep has found the perfect equilibrium between its world and ours. It should be mandatory for HBO to keep it going while the political news cycle is so insane; it’s important, it’s cathartic, it therapeutic, dammit! Great satire will always reveal ugly truths but so much junk is already out in the open that it’s hard to even know what’s funny anymore. At least Veep reminds us of the amount of work that goes into making somebody a likable person.
The legacy of Veep, albeit a depressing one, is its evergreen status. The show will matter as long as the political system thrives on the egos of wealthy blowhards who hire a small army to make them seem ‘just like us’. We’re going to look back on the series and say, “Veep called it” in the same way The Simpsons once did.
As we look toward 2020 maybe Veep wasn’t trying to make us laugh. Maybe it was warning us.