Thank christ for the pause button, I would have missed half this episode if I couldn’t pause and finish laughing. I will say this up front. There are scenes on tonight’s Veep where every single line of dialogue is hysterically funny. Every line. Running over the line that comes after but building to crescendos of hurricane proportions.
Mike McLintock is getting crucified on the hill, just like that Jesus guy. Mike has an impossible job. He helped President Selina Meyer win her first debate but now he has to prep her for a pop quiz on the world. He got hammered on the president’s Mommy Meter bill, which is universally hated. He’d fake his own death if he couldn’t stick his wife with the brunch bill on her birthday. Matt Walsh plays McLintock with a great humility, in spite of his successes. He has to. McLintock has one of the most humiliating jobs in Washington. He’s a spokesman, which means he doesn’t get to say anything. He ties a ribbon on Elvis’ ball sac and sells it as fine china. He is the public mouthpiece for the leader of the free world.
President Meyer was a mouthpiece herself in the years before she entered politics. And, to hear her tell it, she was a quite a piece. Meyer and her posse had it going when they were young lawyers, women on the move. They owned Annapolis and did it with power-T&A. The president is planning a relaxing evening away from the usual gang of idiots. Of course, the older gang of idiots is not remotely as comforting as her stressed out staff.
Tom James (Hugh Laurie) is too perfect a politician. He is the in-touch-with-the-normal-guy guy. He doesn’t want to be that guy, but that’s the kind of guy he is. He rolls with the crew. He shoots from the hip. Tom James is perfect because he always runs the risk of going off script. He is a loose cannon and voters and politicians alike respond to that. Voters by hoping he will fire off a stray shell into his foot and politicians by ducking for the cover of their public relations team. The Mike McLintocks of the Beltway may take the flak for any fallout, but they are not paid to throw themselves in front of a bullet.
Tom James even makes the all-too sober Kent Davison (Gary Cole) sound reasonable and Davison is too reasonable for human reason. As I’ve said before, he approaches Mr. Spock in his powers of detached emotional dexterity. Cole is one of the great set-up players. His genius is that the audience has no idea what’s coming. He is inscrutable. Who knew his nervous “I had not anticipated this. This I had not anticipated,” would be declared the worst Dr. Seuss title ever by Ben.
As Ben Caffrey, Kevin Dunn can do nothing wrong. He throws his lines out like he’s tired of having them on his plate. He probably never hit a bad note in his career. Dunn is a veteran of political movies like All the King’s Men. He played Charles Colson, President Nixon’s White House Counsel, in Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Sandy Berger, President Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, in the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11.
“Are we at war with clay?” Dan (Reid Scott) and Amy’s (Anna Chlumsky) are getting fitted for cement shoes. Amy is squeezing hot independent, well-educated women into tight outfits to lure congressmen into trade booths, which are designed to look like a porn shoot with bunting. A lobbyists’ job, apparently, is to wait until an elder statesman is so aroused by the political majoring coeds he’s about to pop and then reroute that sexual energy into an appropriations bill. Not quite the nut they want to bust, but it keeps the wheels of Washington greased. Construction brings builders. Builders bring sex workers and sex workers bring STDs, a major trifecta for big pharm who are ambulance chasing at the concrete convention.
Every room Gary (Tony Hale) is in is a panic room. The Secret Service has to save the president twice in one day. They are cool, efficient, tough and silent as nails but can be cowed by Sue with a terse “sh.” Such is the power of the Sufe Bradshaw. There is no secret elevator to a secret safe house, there is just a wall of men in dark suits and unimaginative ties, to paraphrase The X-Files, between the country’s chief executive and the nation being run by the vice president. If that’s not scary enough, have you seen the sitting vice president? Not this episode, he jumped off the President Meyer ticket and only surfaces now to say how long winter’s going to last.
If the Families First Bill is passed, congress says it will mean the end concept of families as we know it, at least that’s the dream. Whether or not Selina can push this down the throats of her constituency remains to be seen. But it might be easier to swallow than the down-home pizza dinner she throws for her college buddies, who were obviously expecting some Oval Office opulance. Mo Gaffney, the president’s former alcoholic friend, is a veteran of uncomfortable comedy. She played on the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous as well as Mad About You and Friends.
Jonah (Timothy Simons) is having the most important meeting of his career. He may serve the vice president and be on a first name basis with the president, but as Richard T. (why did I type T? His middle name is James) Splet reminds him, his calendar is ever-clear. Whatever he has pending is unimportant. In a fast-paced world like the political front lines, everyone is always running a little behind. They always arrive after a very important detail has been unearthed by everyone in the world around them. The characters are forever unprepared. Richard and Jonah are unprepared even when they are fully in the present.
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is at home on Veep. She really is perfection in this role, even if nobody voted for her. I hope she’s never unseated, though I believe there will be an upset between her and Tom James. Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t exactly play but there are so many subtle things what she’s doing that every situation is seismic. She has comic chemistry with every single player, even if her only reaction with them is mouthing something silently. She tells jokes with her words, hands, and eyelashes.
I don’t know if state of mind can be considered a running gag, but misinterpreted intuition is rampant on Veep. It keeps things forever in the moment and brings new dimension to impromptu. The actors aren’t just improvising, they are playing people who are forever making things up as they go along. Larry David’s crew on Curb Your Enthusiasm improvised their way through uncomfortable restaurant openings and paying hookers in hot dogs for a ride in a carpool lane, Veep’s staff fake their way through situations of international importance. It’s kind of scary when you project this onto the day-to-day reality of real politics.
“Mommy Meyer” was directed by Chris Addison, story and teleplay by Georgia Pritchett and Will Smith.