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Veep: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray Review)

7 Apr, 2017 By: John Latchem



Street 4/11/17
HBO
Comedy
$24.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Not rated
Stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sufe Bradshaw, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole, Sam Richardson, Dan Bakkedahl, Sarah Sutherland, Phil Reeves, Hugh Laurie, David Rasche.

The fourth season of “Veep” ended with a juicy scenario for fans of politics: an electoral tie in the presidential election. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who had been elevated from Veep to POTUS after her predecessor resigned at the end of season three, was running to earn her own term in in the top spot, only for the election to end up in a rare deadlock — a cliffhanger that raised the stakes for the fifth season.

It’s safe to say the 10 episodes that followed more or less lived up to that potential, despite some creaky interpretations of the Constitutional provisions at play in the storyline.

In the first season under showrunner David Mandel, taking over for series creator Armando Iannucci, “Veep” delivers a full-fledged farce of the transition of power in Washington, D.C., prophetically underscoring some of the real-life absurdities that seem to emerge daily from the nation’s capitol in real life. The show has completed its metamorphosis from the politically inspired workplace comedy of its early years to "The West Wing" on crank.

The brilliant conceit of “Veep,” of course, is that it addresses the trends and clichés of party politics without assigning any of the characters to any identifiable positions. Policies are dealt with in general terms, leaving the writers to focus on lampooning the conventions of the political realm as a commentary on the general state of affairs of government, rather than painting the show into a corner (best exemplified by a scene during a recount in which a new revelation causes the two sides to completely swap the position they held just a minute earlier). It’s a bit like playing poker — it’s not always about the cards you’re holding, but the personalities of the people you’re playing against.

The show dabbles in presenting the realities of our electoral process — information that otherwise seems lost on people who insist on whining about what actually happened in 2016, not that countless outlets didn't help in spreading misinformation about the process. As presidential elections are conducted using a state-by-state system, a deadlock in the Electoral College would send the presidential vote to the House of Representatives, with the first candidate receiving a majority vote of state delegations winning the presidency. A vote in the senate elects a new vice president.

But before Selina can deal with the House vote, a potential recount could swing the election to her favor. There’s also a special election for a representative in New Hampshire, which could benefit Selina if she can get her puppet Jonah (Timothy Simons) elected to the seat despite his gross incompetence (he’s more interested in the trappings of the office — mistresses and free lunches with lobbyists).

Other headaches for Selina include a scheme by her running mate (Hugh Laurie) to seize the presidency for himself through parliamentary tricks, and the constant filming of her actions by her newly lesbian daughter (Sarah Sutherland, whose father, Kiefer Sutherland, is now playing the president on a more-serious show, ABC’s “Designated Survivor”).

Despite some hiccups in the show’s Constitutional interpretations (their depiction of the Senate vote runs askew of the language of the 12th Amendment in the presumption that the VP has a tie-breaking vote), the comedy is flawless, and it’s no surprise the show has won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series the past couple of seasons (including this one). Louis-Dreyfus, of course, has won Best Actress for each season of the show, and her effortless performance at the head of the ensemble makes it easy to see why.

This is also one of the filthiest shows on television, with characters spouting double entendres and biting insults with the regularity of civilized people saying “hello” to each other. (One episode even centers on finding which of her staffers called Selina the “C” word to a reporter.)

It all culminates in “Inauguration,” which finally completes the cycle of every conceivable misfortune raining down on Selina. And in the perverse karma of Washington, it’s not as if she doesn’t deserve it.

The Blu-rays include cast and crew commentaries on a handful of episodes, although they’re more focused on heaping praise upon themselves for their comedy chops than highlighting some of the technical details of the shows. The episodes also include some great deleted scenes that expand on the characters so effectively you almost wish they were just added back in as extended episodes.
 


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