Based on the premiere episode of "Veep," Julia Louis-Dreyfus will not replace Geena Davis as the best female vice president on television. Davis, of course, starred in the late, lamented series "Commander in Chief," a one-hour drama about a female VP who becomes President of the United States. Davis's show was classy and well-written, but this HBO original series is just a patchwork of foul language and sexual innuendo.
Louis-Dreyfus is Selina Meyer, a former senator who now is one heartbeat away from the presidency. A montage during the opening credits documents Meyer's unsuccessful bid for the White House and her ultimate acceptance of the vice presidency. It would have been nice, though, to have an official introduction to the character instead of just joining her already in progress.
Like her character, the former "Seinfeld" star seems unsure about her role. "Fundraiser," the opening episode, shows Vice President Meyer trying to find sure footing in Washington, D.C. Hoping to make green jobs her hook, Meyer inadvertently irritates the plastics industry by endorsing tableware made from cornstarch.
In an agonizing subplot, the vice president, while stepping in for the president, make a tasteless joke in front of a crowded room. The show may be trying to portray Meyers as a female version of former Vice President Dan Quayle, but this gives her no additional sympathy from the audience.
Meyer's staff consists of fumbling misfits that resemble the cast of the 1970s TV sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati." Anna Chlumsky, the young charmer who starred opposite Macaulay Culkin in 1991's "My Girl," plays Amy Brookheimer, Selina's chief-of-staff. Decked out in tight, curve-hugging outfits, Chlumsky seems nervous and unsure and, at times, appears to be looking directly at the camera.
Tony Hale turns in a grating performance as Gary Walsh, the vice-president's personal aide. Walsh carries "The Leviathan," an oversized bag containing all the essentials that Meyer needs to get through the day. As the power behind the throne, Walsh is a wishy-washy bundle of nerves who thinks his job is extremely important.
The only character with real teeth and potential is Dan Egan (Reid Scott), an aggressive political player who is not above romancing his former boss's daughter. Dan breaks a lot of confidences to come work for the vice president, but Selina is quick to overlook many of his sins.
Normally, an HBO original series makes good use of the freedoms offered by pay-television. Series creator Armando Iannucci doesn't push the creative boundaries at all, though. The dialogue, for instance, consists mainly of double-entendres and an overabundance of F-bombs.
"Veep" is a missed opportunity on many levels. Instead of a half-hour sitcom, Julia Louis-Dreyfus should have been given an hour-long drama in which to stretch her creative limbs. A well-researched dramatic series could have delved deep into contemporary politics, but Iannucci opted for weak satire instead.
If "Veep" truly indicates the current state of Washington, D.C., it's time to switch to a monarchy.
"Veep" airs Sunday evenings on HBO at 10pm EST.