Veep: Debate, review

Selina Meyer may not win the Debate, but Veep is a frontrunner.

Veep wins the “Debate.” Not Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), though, she comes in second. Veep wins because the entire episode seemed to be leading up to a disaster. Selina’s team seem like such inept also-rans, every decision made on the fly. Everything they commit to is shit-canned like so many political promises. Selina’s team looks like they couldn’t win a 20 yard dash against a rock.  This distracts the audience from the fact that all the other candidates running have equally inept support systems. Except the coach, I mean manager, he pulls ahead because he probably doesn’t have political lifers on his team. What “The Debate” proves is that Selina’s improvisational acuity is what will always relegate her to number two.

Gary (Tony Hale) presents the new vice presidential look to an aghast campaign command center. Selina gets a drastic haircut three days before a televised debate. The who team freaks. This is a disaster. It is assured. The brilliance of the Veep writing team is that every set up gets the statistically least probably pay off. Every promise will be broken. Every good hope that the characters expect is not only dashed, but crushed in a way that is most devastatingly humiliating. The flip side to that is that every expected bomb can turn out to be a dud, sitting right next to the real landmine.

As the fears about the hair rise to Rape of the Lock proportions, the team leaks worse dirt to cover up a problem that isn’t there. Bad hair can be explained away in a puff piece, there’s no real comedy there. The comedy is right next to it, hidden under a hat that was chosen by someone who shouldn’t have any say. Is it any wonder Selina has developed a twitch.

The twitch. Veep is ever-mindful of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Seinfeld past. Every episode has a Seinfeld reference. The references aren’t small either. They can last as running gags throughout. Yet, they are always subtle. For those who don’t remember, George Costanza got some citrus juice in his eye and it gave him an eye twitch that looked like he was winking. This led to numerous misunderstandings and of course the pursuant hilarity. Selina knows she has the twitch. She takes steps to cover it up. She takes so many steps she forgets one of the big Three Rs that so much of her debate relied on. But, she winds up inadvertently using the twitch to bring down one of her opponents.

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Yes, Goodbye Senator Maddox, we hardly knew you. We knew you couldn’t have taken this run all the way to the White House, though, because you were stupid enough to hire Jonah (Timothy Simons). Though he was only hired to get the mango, Jonah is a free-floating collision. Jonah and Dan exchanges are priceless.

Dan is back from the dead. He was only waylaid for a couple weeks by a minor nervous breakdown, but it was enough time to pull an Al Gore. Though his face lacks the gravitas to pull of a beard, it would have added weapons to the arsenal of facial tics that Reid Scott brings to the character. Dan might have pulled out each one individually by the time Selina makes her third stump speech. Alas, he shaves, but he doesn’t quite get rid of the therapeutic support rhetoric. Again, this is done very subtly.

Kent Davison (Gary Cole) is the driest martini in the house. Or senate, probably. When he says “I’ve only ever used this voice. Even as a young child.” It rings true, brings less depth to already shallow waters and defines the character in an easily quotable sound bite.  So many quotable jokes fly out of these characters’ mouths and they are all deadpanned, but Kent Davison is the deadest pan of all. Except maybe Sue (Sufe Bradshaw).  A lot of the characters are jaded and faded by the beltway bullshit, but they can still muster an octave at least. Even Mike (Matt Walsh), who always looks like he’d rather be in a coma than work five minutes straight, pleads, begs, gets angry, frustrated or scared. Not Sue or Kent. The worst they can get is quietly befuddled. Except with each other.

Amy (Anna Chlumsky) is always loudly befuddled, not necessarily in decibels, but in projection. In the past few episodes Amy has become authoritatively befuddled. She can deflect, or should I say repel, every misstep in a blink of an eye. Sometimes it takes a few flutters, but she consistently recovers and jumps headlong into whatever is coming.

Let there be much “Debate,” this episode threw no softball questions, but dodged a blitz.

“Debate” was written by David Quantick & Tony Roche and directed by Armando Iannucci. 

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5 out of 5