Reviews

May 13, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “Veep”

 

It seems as though just about all the impact of TV’s May finales has been subsumed into the maw that is Game of Thrones–even including The Big Bang Theory, itself one of the signature hits of the last decade.  One of the victims is HBO’s own VEEP, a multi-Emmy-winning jewel in the network’s crown, whose exit, while not ignored, hardly gathered the attention it deserved.  Veep was never the ratings phenomenon that Big Bang and Thrones have been, but it’s one of TV’s great comedies, and happily it went out at the top of its form.

One of the unusual aspects of Veep was that it was the rare auteur-driven series to successfully shift from its original creator, as Armando Iannucci left after 4 seasons to be replaced by David Mandel.  The latter-era Veep was sometimes accused of being less ruthless than Iannucci’s version, with more attention paid to the characters’ emotions, but that certainly wasn’t the case with the finale, written and directed by Mandel, which was as vicious a 48 minutes of comedy as TV has ever seen.

The initial joke of Veep was the utter powerlessness of Vice President Selina Meyer (the triumphant Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who couldn’t even get the President on the phone.  After events led to Selina briefly occupying the Oval Office, the focus shifted to her desperate attempts to get her hands on power once again, either in political office or as a broker of power.  In the final Season 7, Selina was running for President again, in a race that was generally assumed to be doomed.

Mandel, though, took the story in another direction.  The bulk of the action took place at the convention where Selina vied with the imbecilic Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), frenemy (or whatever the lover equivalent of that would be) Tom James (Hugh Laurie), Kemi Talbot (Toks Olagundoye) and others for the nomination.  Although the script was as usual ablaze with brilliant insults, the action didn’t have Selina folding and settling for a lesser post.  Instead, she shifted her amorality into another gear, renouncing every principle she’d even pretended to hold, and wiping all the other players off the board.  In doing so, she drove away her ever-abused lesbian daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) when she vowed to outlaw gay marriage, and sent several of her cohorts like Kent Davidson (Gary Cole) and Dan Egan (Reid Scott) out of politics.  Worst of all, in need of a fall guy for her financial indiscretions, she sent the FBI to her most loyal associate of all, Gary Walsh (Tony Hale).  In the end, Selina was virtually alone, but she was virtually alone as the President.  A coda set 24 years later gave her some final just deserts by wiping her state funeral off the airwaves when Tom Hanks died the same day.

This was fantastically savage stuff, and unlike some of this season, which had seemed a bit too ripped from the Trump headlines, it was exquisitely judged to reflect the characters gaping weaknesses and flaws.  As always, it was also perfectly acted by one of TV’s all-time great casts, led by Louis-Dreyfus in a towering portrayal that managed to be Michael Corleone-like in its trade of power for humanity, and yet also hysterically funny.  (In addition to hose already named, Kevin Dunn, Matt Walsh and Sam Richardson were among the show’s all-stars.)

With all the political humor that’s bombarded us over the past 2 years, none of it has been as bracingly smart and hilariously unsettling as Veep.  The series won its own game and was worthy of its own throne.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."




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