‘Veep' Trumps Reality

Julia Louis-Dreyfus' political comedy returns Sunday with her character out of office and the country out of sorts.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus told The Washington Post this week that “top Democrats” asked her to run for office. She didn't divulge details, but said she immediately declined – presumably politely, even if her "Seinfeld" alter ego Elaine Benes likely would have responded with a boisterous "Get out!"

Louis-Dreyfus' more recent TV alter ego – erstwhile temporary, unelected president Selina Meyer of "Veep" – likely would have taken offer seriously. She's no doubt plotting her comeback to lead a nation about which she harbors strong feelings.

"I hate this country," Selina declared in last season's finale, after being out-Machiavellied of the presidency by a team of rivals.

The HBO comedy returns Sunday for a sixth season with Selina out of office, and, like much of the country, out of sorts.

"Veep" started five years ago this month, and went on to forge eerie parallels with the sinister presidential drama "House of Cards," which premiered on Netflix in early 2013.  But now, the story of Selina Meyer, whose efforts become the first woman elected president of the U.S withered in the Electoral College and died in the U.S. Senate, returns blooming with new layers of reality – and surreality.

Selina's plight doesn't line up exactly with the latest presidential election cycle, in which a Reality TV star beat the first woman nominated by a major party. But the profanity-flinging show speaks, intentionally or otherwise, to the times. "Veep" is not about partisanship (Selina's party is never mentioned) as much as dysfunction – in Washington, in her inner circle and in her personal life.

The show rose to new heights last season while depicting Selina's downfall, as she was out-maneuvered by her running mate (who was out-maneuvered by another foe), got exposed as the foul-mouthed fireball of ambition she is by her put-upon daughter and fell victim to widespread bungling by her staff.

Selina's only ally is her doting bag-toting personal assistant Gary (Tony Hale), whose epic explosion after her loss gave the series its funniest, most poignant and unhinged moment yet – and Louis-Dreyfus wasn't even in the scene.

Hale and Louis-Dreyfus' expert comic interplay, expanding in its symbiotic awkward creepiness, proves a constant "Veep" highlight. Selina and Gary become even closer this season as she travels the globe as a would-be do-gooder in a bid to secure her legacy.

Louis-Dreyfus' legacy is already spoken for as she embarks on the latest season of a show whose machinations no longer seem far beyond the realm of possibility. She's not running for office but is vying to maintain her hold on TV's best comedy – a position that packs laughter, if not necessarily an escape from reality.

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us