Five Reasons HBO’s ‘Veep’ Is Hitting Its Stride

I find it altogether unfortunate that the second season of Veep is a bit lost in the Sunday-night shuffle of Mad Men and Game of Thrones and, hell, even Bob’s Burgers. With so much appointment TV, you might decide life is too short for political satire. But oh, how wrong you would be. Veep is better and sharper than ever, and here’s why:

5. The masterfully awkward energy of Tony Hale. Hale was introduced to the world as Buster Bluth, whose lizardly physicality was the source of much discomfort for other characters and lots of laughs for the audience. He’s taken it up a notch, if you can believe it, as Gary Walsh, the vice president’s personal aide. The way he swoops in and out of frame, whispering and craning his neck impossibly as he pampers his boss or invades her privacy, is pure magic.
4. They’re out of the shadow of The Thick of It. Like many British exports, the first few episodes of Veep were wobbly as a few translation kinks got sorted out; meanwhile, the absence of a vengeful Malcolm Tucker-like character was sorely felt. This time around, they’re more sure-footed, and firmly rooted in a humor that is particular to the American setting. Sunday’s outing, “Hostages,” even took us to a level of pathos the original series sometimes struggled to attain, dealing with the fallout of a surgical military operation in a hostile country.
3. Fresh blood. You hardly notice the lack of a Malcolm between the defeated and irritable Chief of Staff Ben Cafferty, played by Kevin Dunn, and the coldly calculating polling expert Kent Davidson, expertly brought to life by Gary Cole. Even more than bringing us two new readily identifiable species of the D.C. ecosystem, they build out the world of national political nonsense that has to be negotiated each day.
2. It’s topical (in a good way). Any other television program outside CNN that tried to comment on current affairs this directly would be too ridiculous to watch. Actually, let’s include CNN in that circle of ridiculous crap. From gun control to the Middle East to plain old tabloid scandals, Veep covers the entire zeitgeist in deft, insightful, and above all wickedly hilarious fashion. 
1. Julia-Goddamn-Louis-Dreyfus. I mean, this woman is a national treasure, right? Comedian bar none. And listening to her really let fly with all that glorious HBO-sanctioned foul language behind closed doors? Pure delight. Almost as fun as the stream of gibberish that constitutes her small talk with common voters.

Watch the First Trailers for HBO’s ‘Veep’ & Christopher Guest’s New Series ‘Family Tree’

With Girls and Enlightened all wrapped up for the season, you may find yourself wondering just what to do come 10pm on Sunday nights. But not to fret, there’s plenty more television from that HBO spring from whence they came. First up, the Season 2 trailer for the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led political comedy Veep has been unveiled and it looks to serve up even more of the particular brand of hilarious and biting Armando Iannucci laughs we love so much. This time around Kevin Dunn and Isaiah Whitlock Jr. have joined the state of affairs, as well as Thick of It Star Chris Addison (if only we could get some Peter Capaldi love now that The Hour will not be gracing our televisions again).

That one premieres April 14th but there’s also the new series Family Tree from Christopher Guest, the man behind Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman, etc. featuring his troupe of hilarious cohorts. With Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Ed Begeley Jr., and now Chris O’Dowd in the lead, the show will follow a man who "inherits a mysterious box that belonged to his great aunt, and decides to learn more about his roots." Vague, yes, but I am more than willing to give anything Guest a hell of a shot. This one, however, doesn’t have a set air date yet but surely that will come soon.

Check out the trailers below.



The ‘Veep’ Season Two Trailer Is Here

Thank God HBO didn’t cancel it.

Veep has always been a way more interesting show to me than Girls, but has been stuck in Jan Brady status — meaning the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-headed comedy about how much it sucks to be vice president has never gotten quite the attention it deserved. Kinda meta, isn’t it? 

But thankfully ratings seemed to have been good enough that HBO has renewed the show for a second season. Veep returns, with cast members Tony Hale from Arrested Development and Anna Chlumsky, on Sunday, April 14. 

You can watch the season two trailer below: 

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There Are No Television Comedies Other Than ‘Modern Family,’ Apparently

So, the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards were last night, and considering we still have a bad taste in our mouths from our inappropriate drunk uncle Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars, for the most part, they were actually pretty fun to watch. Jimmy Kimmel had some funny bits, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul hugged it out and made us all verklempt, Lena Dunham ate cake naked and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Amy Poehler stole the show with their acceptance speech switcheroo.

In terms of the awards themselves, the recipients were almost painfully predictable, especially in the comedy category. The drama awards were mostly bang-on, as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the most part avoided the soapy pleasure of Downton Abbey and Don Draper’s steely gaze to actually reward what probably are the two best dramas on TV right now, Homeland and Breaking Bad (Aaron Paul’s Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award made our hearts happy). And Louis C.K. took home two awards — one the writing on Louie and one for his standup special at the Beacon Theatre.

But in terms of comedy, once again, the Academy chose to throw Louie its one bone—the equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences giving the most envelope-pushing film of the year Best Original Screenplay and then kind of ignoring it the rest of the night—and then choosing to celebrate thoroughly mediocre stuff. In a run similar to the one Frasier made in the mid-‘90s, for the past three Emmy cycles now, Modern Family has dominated the comedy categories to the point where even better stuff from the banal, laugh track-y, Chuck Lorre school of TV comedy was ignored (come on, as eye-roll-worthy as The Big Bang Theory can be sometimes, seeing Mayim Bialik win an Emmy, especially as the show’s saving grace that is Amy Farrah Fowler, åwould have been golden). All four of Modern Family’s big winners—Outstanding Supporting Actress Julie Bowen, Outstanding Supporting Actor Eric Stonestreet (convinced that there is one dude voting in the Academy who is just still totally super shocked that a straight dude can play a preening gay man even though this is 2012, y’all), Director Steven Levitan and the show for Outstanding Comedy Series — are repeat wins, with the show itself and Levitan earning them back-to-back-to-back. This year, the rest of the show’s adult cast members were nominated for acting awards.

I like Modern Family. It’s cute. Ty Burrell and Sofia Vergara are eternally fun to watch. I usually walk away from it not hating myself. My whole family watches it (cross-demographic appeal!). And granted, the Outstanding Comedy Series pool was a little thin this year—the token Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), two former comedy powerhouses that are still very funny but mostly over-the-hill (30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and the two other HBO shows, Girls and Veep, which were long shots anyway. But at a time and place where so many awesome things are happening with television comedy, at a time when a fart and smunny show like Parks & Recreation or something that, love it or hate it, can spark an international conversation like Girls or a show that is so funny and so human like Louie or a show that celebrates its dweebiness so joyfully like Community or a great traditional thirtysomethings-in-the-city sitcom like Happy Endings can all exist, it seems a disservice to let more of the same rack up statue after statue. It seems kind of silly to rant—the Emmys will probably never change and TV comedy is full of niches and Modern Family certainly isn’t the worst thing to happen to television ever. But when the whole run of programming is so totally awesome, it would just kind of be nice seeing the celebration of the awesomeness spread around a bit. At least Leslie Knope won her city council election. Better luck next time, Team Dunphy.

So, to make ourselves feel better about everything, here’s Aaron Paul’s acceptance speech again. 

‘The Thick Of It’ Airs, Uncensored, On Hulu This Sunday

For the dozen of us in this blighted country who would rather comb crabs out of their pubic hair with a spork than watch any beloved sitcom currently running on NBC, September 9 will be a day to rejoice.

That’s when the fourth series of The Thick Of It, the funniest television program of the 21st century, premieres. And while I just called the U.S. a blighted land, man, you ain’t seen blight till you’ve glimpsed the bland gray corridors of political power in England.

Two Washington-based spinoffs—the movie In The Loop and HBO adaptation Veep, are hilarious in their own right—but they pale in comparison to the original show, which follows the travails of hopelessly incompetent bureaucrats as they struggle to keep pace with a vicious 24-hour spin cycle. The series has its star and profanity savant in communications director Malcolm Tucker, whose baroque dressing-downs are a perpetual highlight.

While previous seasons focused on the Labour government in decline, this batch of episodes promises to bring us the U.K.’s new Conservative-Liberal coalition in all its dysfunctional glory. The best news of all is that you won’t have to pirate them if you subscribe to Hulu, which is cleaning up on British comedy exports.

You can thank your lucky stars they won’t be bleeping anything for your sensitive American ears—otherwise there’d be no dialogue.  

Reid Scott on His Villainous ‘Veep’ Role and Baltimore’s Foodie Paradise

“I’ve grown to love acting so much,” says Reid Scott, “because I get to flex completely different creative muscles in front of the camera than I do behind it.” Scott, who is best known for his role as Dr. Todd Mauer opposite Laura Linney on Showtime’s cancer comedy, The Big C, initially had dreams of life in the director’s chair. But the film school graduate will have to put those plans on hold after hitting the actor’s jackpot with a part on HBO’s new workplace comedy, Veep. In the sharp, fast-talking show, adapted by acclaimed British satirist Armando Iannucci from his own BBC series, Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrays the American Vice President as a frustrated and marginalized second-in-Commander in Chief. Scott is the smarmy Dan Egan, a “snake in the grass” who sells out his senator boss for a chance to join the VP’s staff. “Who doesn’t like to play a bad guy?” Scott asks. “You get to exorcise all of your own demons.”

Unlike a perfectly contained Aaron Sorkin script, Veep has a more naturalistic style. “It isn’t glossy like The West Wing; even though that’s fine acting and fine writing, it doesn’t seem real. I’m pretty sure things don’t happen that way.” During shooting, the cast, which includes Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale, was sequestered in Baltimore, “marinating” in their characters but still finding time to enjoy the city’s nocturnal comforts. “I had this preconceived notion that Baltimore was not going to have good food, and was completely surprised because every place we went had terrific food,” says Scott. “We always ended up at Salt, a little place with great beers. We’re all beer drinkers, and the food was awesome.

Photo by Damian Sandone

Watch the Trailer for ‘Veep,’ Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s New HBO Show

Much like his work on the BBC’s The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci is bringing a less charitable view of national politics to HBO’s Veep. In the show, Julis Louis-Dreyfus plays the hapless vice president of the United States, one who’s forced to attend meaningless fundraisers and make up platitudes on the spot (less Cheney, more Biden). She’d rather have more power, of course, which is why there’s a little smile on her face when she’s informed that the president is experiencing chest pains. So yes, it’s going to be that type of farce, one that will probably make you feel a little worse about the state of American politics like most things do these days.

Louis-Dreyfus is backed by a Murderer’s Row of comedic bit players: Arrested Development‘s Tony Hale, Upright Citizens Brigade founding member Matt Walsh, and everyone’s favorite "that girl," Anna Chlumsky. The curses are bleeped out in the trailer, but knowing the inspired language that filled up The Thick of It and its film spinoff In The Loop I’m guessing the show will be quoted around the Internet after it premieres on April 22, assuming it can deliver on the silliness we’ve seen so far.

‘Game of Thrones’ Returns on April Fools’ Day, ‘Girls’ Starts Right After

The return to Westeros is upon us, as HBO announced that the second season of Game of Thrones will debut on April 1. Adapting A Clash of Kings, the second book in A Song of Ice and Fire, this season will feature twice as much intrigue and drama as the first, especially in light of *** *t***’s death (I’m trying to be delicate with the spoilers). If you forgot where season 1 ended, here’s a quick primer: everything is awful and no one is happy. You’re ready to go!

Along with GOT, HBO also announced a few other premieres. Girls, the Apatow-sponsored comedy starring Lena Dunham about low-paid college post-graduates trying to hack it in New York (too real, yo) will drop on April 15, while Game Change, the original movie about the 2008 presidential election, will air on March 10. Also, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Veep, in which she plays the vice president of the United States, will start on April 22. Another spring, another excellent lineup from HBO. What ever changes? 

Below, watch Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister slap his nephew Joffrey for 10 minutes, set to Led Zeppelin’s "Achilles Last Stand." Because, duh