Is Veep moving in the wrong direction?

Alex Moreland

“You know, they did her as vice president for a couple of years, we did her as president for a couple of years — I think there’s probably a couple of years in the former presidency […] the post-presidency is just as important. I think there’s a lot of richness in there to explore.”

David Mandel, showrunner and executive producer on Veep

At the end of its fifth season, Veep found itself in, if not a difficult position, certainly, an unpresidented one: its main character, Selina Meyer, was now out of office entirely.

Where could the show go from there?

In the run up to Veep’s sixth season, executive producer David Mandel was firm in his assertion that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ former president would remain just that – going forward, the hit satire wouldn’t tackle the highest office in America anymore. It was firmly in the realms of the post-presidency, with writers even speaking with former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in the interests of being as accurate as possible. At a point when the real life POTUS was more controversial than ever – famously, the Veep writers had to excise a ‘golden showers’ joke because it erred too close to current events – the choice to step back from office was a contentious one, albeit one that still provided a lot of potential moving forward.

Admittedly, it did take some time for Veep to find its footing again with this new direction – accusations levelled that this was a weaker season of the show may have been valid, but even then it’s worth remembering that a weak season of Veep is still head and shoulders above the rest of the comedy landscape. Certainly, as the season reached its conclusion, it was beginning to feel as though it had built something of a new and sustainable status quo moving into its seventh season.

Yet in the final episode, the show changed tack once more – the seventh season will see Veep once again tackle a presidential election, this time seeing both Selina Meyer and Jonah Ryan running for president. In and of itself, it was a reasonably well-constructed episode; Groundbreaking, the sixth season finale, bluntly underscored one of Veep’s longest running themes – that Selina Meyer will do anything, sacrifice anything, for power.

Moving forward, however – well, it’s difficult to see exactly how the programme will continue to stay fresh, arguably returning to the well one time too many. Indeed, there feels a real risk of exactly what Mandel noted when explaining the reason for exploring the post-presidency – that the show may find itself erring too close to reality entirely, dulling its satirical edge rather than sharpening it. On an obvious level, it feels as though the experienced female candidate competing against the brash populist would closely resemble America’s 2016 election; one can only hope, then, that Veep doesn’t pursue what is surely the even more obvious plotline, leaving Selina Meyer in the role of Vice-President once more, the running mate to President Jonah Ryan. Yes, it’s a funny idea, but might it just be a little too on the nose? To say nothing, of course, of the internal inconsistencies required to make the move work – it’s unfair to expect stringent logic in every comedy, but Veep was always a programme that excelled on precise plotting. It begins to feel as though the bigger picture has been sacrificed for short-term laughs.

Equally, of course, this might simply be giving the writers a lack of credit – credit which, after the past few years, they’ve surely earned. It remains a distinct and strong possibility that Veep’s seventh season will, in fact, be one of its best; the decision to refocus the show once more, returning to the lens of political ambition, might prove to be exactly what was needed to restore Veep to its former heights. It could simply be the case that, when it isn’t broke, you shouldn’t try and fix it – Veep may simply work best with Meyer in a position of power.

However, at the same time, it can’t help but feel like somewhere along the way they’ve run out of ideas and now, much like their main character, could be about to fall down trying to reclaim past glories.


Veep – A presidential showcase for Julia Louis-Dreyfus

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