Season premiere review: 'Veep' still feels like 'Veep' even without Armando Iannucci
A few thoughts on last night's Veep premiere coming up just as soon as I look exactly like the president from behind...
The lack of humanity and/or ideology that Armando Iannucci gave to most of the characters on Veep has largely been the point of the show — these are people who shouldn't be trusted to run an Arby's counter during the lunch rush, let alone a country — but it's also raised a particularly high bar for the show's joke writers to clear. Other comedies with more sympathetic regulars can get by weeks where the punchlines aren't quite landing; Veep without frequent laughs would feel utterly pointless, if not unwatchable.
Fortunately, the transition from Iannucci to new showrunner David Mandel has been pretty seamless. If I didn't know about the switch, I wouldn't have been able to tell from the premiere, which picked up right where last season left off, not only in terms of story (Selina's team scrambling in the aftermath of the electoral vote tie) but just in terms of level and style of humor. Ben telling Bill Ericsson that he's "as welcome here as a swastika-shaped shit in a synagogue" seemed like a genuine Veep insult and not just a carefully-crafted imitation of one, Selina's pimple and the all-white symposium on race were both amusing PR disasters, and Richard Splett getting promoted over Jonah was a wonderful twist on their partnership (and consistent with a show where no one seems to stay in the same role for very long). Also, for all that the bumbling of Selina and her staff is necessary to drive the show, Iannucci never let her be entirely incompetent, so it was smart of Mandel to show her getting the better of Tom James by publicly forcing him to become economic czar even after he'd privately refused.
Plenty of shows have gone off the rails when their creators left: Community in the gas leak season, West Wing immediately after John Wells took over (though it got better later), the final Gilmore Girls season, etc. Had Veep dissolved without Iannucci, it wouldn't have been a shock. Fortunately, though, it still felt very much like Veep, and I look forward to seeing what dumb things these characters do in the future.
What did everybody else think?