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Television | VEEP

Unintentionally prescient, intentionally hilarious


Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer.

Shows often change to reflect a changing reality. Homeland created a season based on the Snowden revelations, for example, while The Good Wife regularly turned real court-case headlines into fodder for fictional ones.

But Veep, debuting its fifth season (Sunday, April 24, 10:30 pm, HBO) is a special case. It's stayed the same. Reality has ripped Veep from the headlines. In its early years, Veep was rightly criticized for missing the essence of the political landscape.

Veep is adept at channeling the profane narcissism of D.C. politico culture, with its revolving doors and desperate sycophancy. Every few minutes in Veep is marked by humiliation or despair or furious outburst or cascading disasters.

Yet Veep's fictional world rarely mentions issues or specific political parties. We don't know if politician Selina Meyer is a Democrat or a Republican. She fervently tries to avoid taking positions on major issues. Instead, the show is entirely about the "what about your gaffes?!" 24-hour news cycle, Twitter-frenzied, sound-and-fury nothingness of political narrative. West Wing-style policy wonkery would only muddle the satire.

Yet all that seemed to miss the point back when it was set up against a Republican Party that was so narrowly focused on ideological purity.

But then came Donald Trump. And suddenly, at least for the GOP, ideological purity has become practically irrelevant. Even on immigration, his signature issue, Trump has shown willingness to abandon ideology for whim or convenience, or because he forgot exactly what his position is. And here, Veep is a head of the curve. Oh, Trump spent a week wildly flailing back and forth between radically different positions on abortion? Please. Veep did that back in Season 3.

This election, image has been everything — it's all been about masculinity and insulting nicknames. And occasionally hand size. "Lol nothing matters" has become a mantra for despairing conservative pundits this year. It also works as a tagline for Veep: Policy, substance, ideology? Nothing matters on this show. And that, in its dark, chaotic and tragic way, is part of what makes it so hilarious.

Trump is running for president, yes. But he's running as Veep.

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