The Simpsons have Radioactive Man, Veep has Radioactive Dan (Reid Scott). The former chief counsel was less than ceremoniously dumped last week and he’s back to needing a shave. Dan is a shit, one of the biggest shits in Washington DC, where that kind of thing is really appreciated and Dan is about to be able to name his price. The guy he’s interviewing with, Sydney Purcell of PKM, speaks in small print, so Dan might not be getting quite what he’s agreeing to, but he gets to go after everything President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) holds dear.
Now, Dan knows more about the president than almost anyone, except maybe Gary (Tony Hale), the president’s bag man. But Dan retains things. Gary is one of the most counter-intuitive characters on the show. He may know dates and gossip, but when it comes down to the president’s real needs, Gary is not just clueless, his reasoning is like George Costanza’s on Seinfeld. Everything he does is the opposite of what was needed, wanted or sometimes plainly requested. Dan’s not like that. He’s razor sharp and cuts through the inconsequential with pinpoint accuracy. He will be a major thorn in the side, especially as he’s courting Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), the president’s current campaign manager, for Oval Office access.
Calling Amy Selina’s current campaign manager is like introducing a bride as a “future ex-wife.” It may be inevitable, but saying it out loud might be crude and inappropriate in the office. Crude and inappropriate isn’t a problem in Washington and it’s certainly not a problem for Bill Ericson (Diedrich Bader) who subsists on a steady diet of the stuff. He has no people skills, he’s a robot. Ericson is Amy’s nemesis, which made Dan an ally. But now that Dan’s an enemy, Amy can turn traitor at the drop of a poll.
Chlumsky is a master of the multi-task, not the character, the actress. She’s never doing one thing at a time. She projects conflicting emotions with her eyes, independent of what her face is doing, while her body statically runs in place. If Chlumsky was in the circus, she’d have to be a juggler, on a unicycle, on a trampoline, without a net, in the dark. She’s a victim of hands on office miscommunication. The right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing and the middle hand is constantly punching her in the tits. She’s on a life support machine and people keep pulling the plug to charge their phones.
Sue started doing voices this season, now she’s upped her repertoire to include finishing Kent Davison’s (Gary Cole) sentences. That’s necessary sometimes when she needs boring people to pick up the pace. Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) on Ambien is still shaper than the rest of the staff. Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) may have earned a two-day weekend, but he doesn’t know how to spend it. He squanders any goodwill he might have brokered on this goodwill mission. His English isn’t very good, which, when coupled with his utter inability to lie well, make him the dysfunctional press secretary. Of course, he tries to repent by watering down the dry region. The press are stuck on a plane on the tarmac without booze. Detoxing so bad the plane is shaking.
The president is making a history. The CNN crawl reads First presidential Iranian trip since 1977, along with some news about a bacteria that causes poverty. Selina is forging a winning presidential strategy. She’s doing it by sheer will. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays everything with thoughtless intelligence and relaxed mania. Even her exhaustion is invigorating.
Timothy Simons is amazing this week. Jonah finally gets himself dirty enough for the vice president’s office and comes clean to the president’s staff in one of the great perceived public humiliations of the small screen. Simons face flushes and his eyes try to escape his face, which is only staying on his skull because his hands are holding it there. He dry heaves his professional woes in full view of a journalist’s mom and his sycophantic flunky Richard (Sam Richardson). He believes even Catherine Meyer (Sarah Sutherland) is laughing at him and for what? A funny story.
There are no jokes on Veep because no one in Washington tells any jokes, and when they do tell one, like in the Vice President’s office, they’re pretty lame. The humor is in how they talk to each other, every line is witty and moves the humor forward. When Dan finds out he doesn’t have to shit on Mike’s lawn as a kind of hazing, he’s still willing to do it, in a quick transition shot you’re probably not even supposed to be listening to.
“Tehran” was brilliantly written, realistically overacted and plays well on repeated views. It makes me scared to go into the polls alone and even more scared not to. It may seem that lampooning politicians is like shooting fish in a barrel, but Veep does it with pinpoint accuracy. It is the smartest comedy on TV now. I heard that Armando Iannucci will not be coming back next season and I am sad. I’m sure the show will still keep up the quality, but I like seeing his name up there.
“Tehran” was directed by Becky Martin. Story by Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin and Tony Roche. Teleplay by Ian Martin and Tony Roche.