HBO vehicle Veep – an American adaptation of one of the most critically lauded shows of recent years, The Thick of It — is razor-sharp and laugh-out-loud funny.
Armando Iannucci’s British comedy series The Thick of It is one of the most critically lauded shows of recent years. The parliamentary satire, which has aired on ABC1, has won a swag of awards and always tops critics’ polls. It spawned a spin-off film, 2009’s Oscar-nominated In The Loop, and Working Dog was undoubtedly influenced by the program when it set to work on its own political spoof The Hollowmen.
So what happens when you move everything good about the show from London’s Houses of Parliament to Washington? HBO vehicle Veep – an American adaptation of The Thick of It, produced and co-written by Iannucci – answers the question emphatically.
It’s a pleasure to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her most significant post-Seinfeld role since unmemorable sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. The woman who will forever be known as Elaine, though she has a sense of humour about it (check out her excellent cameos in Curb Your Enthusiasm for proof), is in her element as acid-tongued US vice-president Selina Meyer.
Louis-Dreyfus is the star of the show, abusing her staff, turning on the charm whenever there’s a reporter around and struggling to talk to her college-age daughter, Catherine, without resorting to daggy ‘‘this is yo’ mamma’s office’’ type stuff in the first episode of this weekend’s double-header.
As superb as Louis-Dreyfus is, she’s backed up by a great cast playing her support staff, most notably Tony Hale (Arrested Development’s oddball Buster) as Meyer’s bumbling personal aide, Gary Walsh.
Like The Thick of It, Veep is an extremely wordy show. Conversation is king and barbs are traded so quickly it can be hard to keep up. While the first couple of episodes were a whirlwind of introductions to all the characters, Veep begins to hit its straps this week.
Meyer’s office is throwing a party to celebrate her 20th year in politics but poor Catherine just wants to chat to her mother. One of funniest scenes comes when Meyer pulls her daughter into a private room full of larger-than-lifesize magazines with her on the cover and claims: ‘‘I know not everything is about me.’’
The following episode is even better as Meyer makes a clumsy racist gaffe on Meet the Press. Visiting a hospital to meet accident survivors, she finds herself cornered by patients and staff praising her for her unintended stand against immigration, chanting “USA! USA!’’
Veep is razor-sharp and laugh-out-loud funny. It stands on its own rather than a The Thick of It remake and, while Meyer may live and die by her approval rating, HBO is more generous, with Veep renewed for a second season.
Foxtel Showcase, Sunday, 7.30pm.