HBO’s Veep episode, “The Choice,” comes as close as you can to making a statement without saying a word.
Veep is a comedy of bad manners masquerading behind back-door, back-stabbing deals that pass as diplomacy. Veep is politics in a nutsack. Selina Meyer comes back to DC this week to make The Choice. The Choice is pro-choice or pro-life. The only thing Selina won’t do is speak “as a woman.” Unofficial polls have found that four out of five women hate women who speak “as a woman.” Selina’s not putting all her eggs in that basket. Meyer gets it right the first time when she simply declares “get the government out of my fucking snatch.” The sad thing is that if were to put it that simply, she might get the votes.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is made for the “in-joke” and Veep is filled with gags and private musings that are internal to the characters. The writers trust the audience enough not to care whether they explain every reference or even if those references exist. Selina has a million nicknames for people in her head or acronyms for stupid terms she’s sick of repeating. Her staff has to be on board immediately because she’s the vice president.
The great thing is that none of her staff is actually ever on board. They lag constantly behind the loop, lost on the Beltway. Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), enjoying a staycation honeymoon with Wendy, a DC journalist played by Kathy Najimi, running through a World War II marathon, is past the years when he could storm a hill. You get the feeling Mike could never storm a hill. He was born tired and worn out. He was old when he was first unwrapped. He’s a beat late when he shows up at the Veep’s think tank, offering up the same shit that Dan has already put up on the board. It is Mike who puts Jonah wise to the edible garbage at the Veep’s new office.
Meyer’s personal assistant, Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), doesn’t want to be that guy in his forties carrying somebody else’s bag. He has ideas. He has input. He has fruit the size of embryos at various stages. Not very helpful. Worthless stuff. A waste of time. Take off his bag and Gary is useless. But he will be forever be invaluable to Selina Meyer. He is a masterful bagman. Everyone else is just a tote bag compared to him.
Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) is wise enough to see the ambiguity of calling POTUS “Pro-TUS” because both sides, pro-choice and pro-life, are pro-something, but not smart enough to catch Selina Meyer’s hints that her new lackey was better left half a continent behind.
Veep may be the most scatological show in TV history. Veep does for shit what Deadwood did for cocksucker. Dan Egan, played by Reid Scott, was hired as a shit and may be flushed on account of his shittiness. Dan Egan shat his way to the middle of the second-to-the-top of the DC dung heap and when he can’t hold it in any more he shits himself into a funky furlough. Jonah (Timothy Simons), who I called the skid mark of Veep last week, is now a cling-on. Dropped from the president’s staff, he is the turd that eludes the toilet paper. Jonah is a cyber-prick. Kevin Dunn’s Ben Cafferty could not possible give less of a shit for any of this. His I-don’t-give-a-shits are eloquent and dismissive, but ultimately lost, because he doesn’t give a shit. In a town full of shits, he doesn’t have one to give. He is part of the don’t give a shit lobby, they’d have posters and buttons if they gave a shit, which they don’t. Yet, he’s probably the only person who could wave his transvaginal wand and make it go away. Sufe Bradshaw as Sue Wilson is as coolly efficient as a plunger. She is not one to leave the unflushable turd left from the person in the stall before you, Kent Davison (Gary Cole), swirling in circles. She will jiggle the handle until it goes down. Just not on her.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this shit.
I want to pronounce Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the all-time best non-verbal comic communicator in the history of sound entertainment. Dreyfus’ facial expressions, gestures, when she mouths something wordlessly, when she throws her hands up in the air in frustration, are the best in the business. A simple moment of personal anguish is transformed in a ballet of physical comedy with merely a squinched face, a thrust tongue or the intensity of a stare. It’s something we all do, every single day and no one on the big or small screen better translates that than Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This particular episode is a tour de force. As much as that is for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer, it is more so for Reid Scott. Dan’s breakdown, veins popping out of the side of his neck, eyes crazy like a Manson in training, was a character high. I don’t know if he’ll be able to top it, but I am very happy to watch him try.
Everything that is set up as any kind of fulfillment is ruined in this episode. Every dream dashed. Every copout copped to. Selina says she’ll say anything but “as a woman” and, of course, there it is front and center. Gary says he doesn’t want to be the guy carrying bags at forty and Selina coos that he has nothing to worry about; he’ll be carrying her bag forever. A very fulfilling episode.