Unless the higher-ups at HBO are far more powerful than anyone realizes, it was a blissful coincidence that Hillary Clinton announced her bid for presidency on the same day of the Veep premiere.
The fourth season of Armando Iannucci’s viciously funny political satire sees former Vice President Selina Meyer navigate her term as the first woman president in the United States (a position that she manages to wrangle against all odds after the acting President steps down). With her new political campaign, Hillary Clinton is striving toward the same historic goal. But for Clinton’s sake, let’s hope that’s where the similarities end.
Previous seasons of Veep focused on sending up the institution of the Vice President’s office, with all its humiliations and slights. Selina spent much of her time getting shut out of important dealings and being relegated to inane photo ops (which usually devolved into minor PR disasters). This season, the stakes are infinitely higher, but Selina and the ragtag band of doofuses that make up her staff are more or less the same—that is to say crude, self-serving, and massively incompetent. Selina might be responsible for the state of the free world, but her team can’t quite figure out how to use a USB key.
Said incident with the USB occurs in the first episode of Veep’s fourth season, and it is both cringe-inducing and delightful. During Selina’s first joint session address, her staffers mistakenly upload a rough draft of her speech onto the teleprompter. Instead of outlining Selina’s plan for helping disadvantaged children, the teleprompter displays a placeholder: “FUTURE WHATEVER.” Selina blubbers for a bit until she hits a stride, free-styling empty politician-speak with gusto.
“I ask you to meet me at the station and board a train into the future,” she says, a careening grin on her face. “And we will be ready for the future. Whatever.” Because the show is steeped in an acid sort of humor, Selina’s speech is met with thunderous applause from her audience. Yes, Veep is back and it is as eviscerating ever.
Julia Louis-Drefyus, as usual, is absolute perfection as Selina. She’s mastered the frozen politician’s smile, and it’s pure joy to watch her spout off ridiculous platitudes (“Well, I’m gettin’ jiggy with it!”) as her character works the room.
Not much is made of Selina becoming the first woman president because Veep is not, to put it mildly, a show that celebrates the accomplishments of politicians. There is brief mention of the landmark moment at the beginning of the premiere, delivered in the form of a fumbling nicety. “Thank you for making history with the first woman president!” Selina says as she shakes hands before the joint session. “Well, I am. You’re not.” Selina is usually the smartest person in the room, but she can be almost as bumbling and just as self-absorbed as everyone else in the Veep universe.
Much to Veep’s credit, those foibles make Selina intensely likeable. Though the show has spent the past three seasons gleefully shredding the upright Washington veneer, it was never unsympathetic about how exhausting, thankless, and absurd Selina’s job was as VP. The circus is bound to reach epic proportions now that Selina is President, but for her (and perhaps for a certain other person who announced her presidential campaign this weekend), the chaos is a worthwhile footnote to the ultimate position of power. “Everything is my fault now,” Selina chirps from her seat in the Oval Office. She seems downright thrilled about it.