While I loved the political spin comedy series ‘The Thick Of It’ I always suspected that the show was built around a single repeating plot; confirm, reverse, panic, deny, lacing the events with Malcolm Tucker’s potty-mouth asides. The US reboot ‘Veep’ began the same way with Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) failing to understand the basic principles which she was supposedly espousing.
As with most political shows it was about the fast ditching of homeric principles for personal gain, the nice touch being that in Armando Ianucci’s scripts the protagonists remain self-deludingly bound to opinion polls and misguided ambitions.
The rinse-and-repeat plotting was enough to loosen the show’s grip for me. It remained off my radar until Lockdown, which brought on the bingewatch. I always wonder whether showrunners and writers have a fully formed idea of where a seven season arc will go. We’ve gone from the cynical ratings-chasing attitude of the ‘Lost’ writers to better formed series of differing lengths like ‘The Looming Tower’. Whether or not ‘Veep’ was planned from the outset the real fun begins after Season 4, when we begin to get an inkling of where the arc is heading.
And the key word here is ‘entropy’. Selina embodies the worst aspects of veepness (say, Thomas Marshall crossed with Spiro Agnew) and devolves into a gorgon. As the centre ceases to hold and a kind of collective hysteria sets in the characters spin out into ever more morally compromised positions – worse jobs, scuzzier tactics, more offensive behaviour. The language is frequently pornographic (and wildly funny, with some jaw-dropping lines muttered beneath the breath) as the show autopsies the nation state in the death throes of late capitalism. Deservedly much awarded, ‘Veep’ assumes a level of cynicism hitherto unimaginable.
Yet as the series unfolded real-time events overtook the scripts in absurdity, so the TV stakes had to be raised still further. Ultimately Trump continues to outrank ‘Veep’ in topsy-turveydom even after the show’s conclusion. This morning, as COVID deaths powered past the 100,000 mark in America, Trump was more concerned with plans to censor Twitter ‘in the name of free speech’, the actions of an Idi Amin or Bolsinaro.
Nationalism leads to parochialism, so the MAGA plan backfired into a new strategy for the rest of the world; Avoid USA. Which makes the red, white and blue campaign trail Selina doggedly repeats look as ridiculous as any obscure ceremony performed on flugelhorn and timpani in an Austrian duchy. As always, it’s the innocent, decent voters who get screwed as darkness envelops all.