Well damn, I would totally have watched The West Wing if it had been funny and concerned the mundane and ridiculous daily office nonsense of politics instead of being super-mawkish and thinking it was as important as the actual presidency. Nah, Veep is closer in spirit to 30 Rock, in which a strong, put upon boss who sort of looks like Sarah Palin is in charge of an office full of colorful characters in a dreary workplace.
Politics hasn’t really been covered in movies or TV like this before. Perhaps that’s because Veep was created and co-written by Armando Iannucci of the satirical British series The Thick Of It and the film In the Loop.
Obviously the inspiration and entry point for this is the alternate universe in which Sarah Palin became vice president, except that that’s not really what Veep is about because Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis Dreyfus, in another riveting comic performance) is a environmentalist and a Democrat, and her intelligence or preparedness are not in questioned. But it would be too late, one-note, and dull to do a Palin send-up this late in the game. Nor is gender politics really an issue the way it’s been made out to be one with Palin. Veep has a far more fascinating take in that it’s simply about what it’s like to be the Vice President of the United States which is to say, to have power but not really to not have power and to be tantalizingly closer to power, and to fill your days with soul-killing glad handling, public relations, niceties, and pleasing everyone without accidentally making a huge gaffe (which, of course, Meyer does anyway). Veep is a thoroughly, and darkly absurd, dismantling of the romance and history of politics.
Meyer and her team of consistently exasperated aides (including Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, and Tony Hale) play the Washington game of press junkets, handshake ceremonies, and favor trading, but long for something more to do. This plays out in what is likely to be a wonderful running joke: ”Did the president call?” Meyer asks her secretary. ”No,” the secretary invariably responds. And he probably never will.