Typically, news that a cherished British favourite is about to remade for American audiences isn’t met with much in the way of enthusiasm. In fact, the general reaction tends to veer somewhere between a dismissive “meh” and a series of outraged expletives. With Veep however, rightly-acclaimed comedy writer Armando Iannucci handled the adaptation himself, taking his superior political satire The Thick Of It and transplanting it to the US for popular network HBO. As such, the result is a quietly brilliant little gem which, while inevitably not on par with the Beeb’s scathing Brit-com original, is consistently amusing from start to finish.
Despite being Iannucci’s first attempt to crack the States with an all-American agenda, it’s something of a natural progression after the transatlantic antics of The Thick Of It spin-off movie In The Loop (which saw British politicians in Washington). But while Veep employs the same cinema-vérité style and scarily plausible portrayal of politicians, what really matters is that there’s plenty of great material. Littered with great lines (“I miss your E-mails. Long time no CC.”), subtle flashes of brilliance (such as one of the team making a list of things which they cannot have a paper trail of) and clever wordplay (like referring to mother-related tears as “Chinese daughter torture”), there’s enough throwaway snark here to merit repeat viewings.
Notably, Veep’s central dynamic is slightly different, given that we’re following a political figure who’s actually in a position of power. Whilst The Thick Of It dealt with MPs from a largely superfluous department, here the focus is actually the Vice President of the United States. That said, our titular VP still functions as a put-upon sufferer of consistent indignities, while each episode follows the tried-and-tested Iannucci format where the politicos deal with escalation and overreaction after a succession of fuck-ups. From attending a half-empty function (“I am in a room with three people and a fuck-load of quiche!”) to endorsement-spinning and counter-endorsement-spinning, it’s the same dig-your-own-grave structure.
Inevitably, there’s nobody here who can hold a candle to Peter Capaldi’s magnificent, swear-spewing spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, but the ensemble is solid throughout. As the eponymous lead, some might argue that Seinfeld favourite Julia Louis Dreyfuss is too ‘big’ to disappear into such a part, but just as Steve Carell did with the US remake of The Office, she quickly makes the role her own. While Arrested Development’s Tony Hale will get laughs as the Veep’s timid assistant (see the way he whispers in her ear during a meet-and-greet line-up), Tim Simons’ lanky White House liaison is a scene-stealing creation.