It looks like the HBO comedy "Girls" (which debuted last Sunday and which I loved) was way more polarizing than I anticipated (some started trashing it before they even watched, but that rant is for another time).
I do not think "Veep," another new half-hour comedy debuting on HBO Sunday night, will have that same problem.
"Veep" is indisputably hilarious and stars the great Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has never been better. Louis-Dreyfus ("Seinfeld," "The New Adventures of Old Christine") plays a struggling vice president (and former senator) who is doing a job she doesn't particularly enjoy and isn't particularly good at.
Vice President Selina Meyer's ultimate political goal -- apart from perhaps one day being President -- is to leave behind some sort of legacy, but her more immediate day-to-day goal is simply to survive without a major catastrophe. That smaller goal is no more easily achieved than the large one.
"Veep" is a remake of Armando Iannucci's BBC series "The Thick of It" (which will begin on BBC America on April 28 at midnight -- and you better believe I'll be watching that too). It might be a teeny bit reminiscent of "The West Wing" in style and subject matter, but "Veep" is without a shred of that show's sentimentality or sense of higher purpose. In fact, it's easier to believe that Iannucci's cynical and profanity-laced world of politics is much more realistic than the Aaron Sorkin's idealistic view.
The Vice President character in "Veep" Isn't based on any one person, so the "Sarah Palin is getting picked on by liberal Hollywood again" conspiracists can relax. After watching three episodes, I saw no similarities between Palin and Selina Meyer, except they are both brunette females. That's it. VP Meyer, who suffers extraordinarily from foot-in-mouth disease, probably has more in common with Vice President Joe Biden, if we're forcing ourselves to draw real-life comparisons.
But there's no need to.
After the first three episodes, we don't even know to which political party VP Meyer belongs, and Louis-Dreyfus has said in interviews that we never will. She also says we will never see the President, a man who seems to want nothing to do with his second-in-command.
As great as Louis-Dreyfus is, her supporting cast is equal. Tony Hale ("Arrested Development") plays her devoted body man Gary, who sticks to her like glue administering hand sanitizer and whispering essential factoids into her ear as she meets people ("He's got a glass eye." "Pro-gambling, loves to kill." "I got nothing, use your Spanish.").
Anna Chlumsky plays Amy, the VP's chief of staff. Amy is among the more competent staff members, but not without error, as we see to a hilarious degree in the first episode.
Also terrific is Matt Walsh, who plays veteran (that means "burned out") press secretary Mike McClintock. Mike has a fake dog at home (it helps get him out of undesirable work assignments) and doesn't want to know what's going on so that he can have plausible deniability with reporters: "Don't tell me. Because if I genuinely don't know, those bastards can't make me tell them."
Mike has to shape up a bit when Dan (Reid Scott), a younger, more ambitious staffer comes on board. Dan is quick, ruthless, and without shame. Amy sums him up pretty well in the first episode when the VP asks for Amy's opinion of him. I can't print her response here, but the predominant word used to describe Dan is four letters long, describes a bodily function, and starts with "s." I've never heard that word used quite so extensively before. Well done.
Rounding out the VP staff is office secretary Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), a stealth quipper with observations like: "If I were writing a memoir -- which I'm not-- but if I were, this would be a big moment." Add to that, Jonah (Tim Simons), the widely-despised White House liason who pops in constantly to check up on things and of course, to remind everyone that he works at the White House.
The entire cast, which incidentally does a good bit of improvising, clicks so well together that it really does feel like an actual office of dysfunctional -- but intimate -- coworkers.
And it's just impossible to understate how wonderful Louis-Dreyfus is here. You have to see for yourself. The trailer below is just a taste.
"Veep" debuts this Sunday night at 10 p.m. on HBO. As with "Girls," HBO is making the first episode available free of charge starting the day after the premiere on HBO.com, YouTube, DailyMotion, TV.com