Monday, April 17, 2017

REVIEW: 'Veep' - Selina Has to Adjust Her Political Expectations for the Future in 'Omaha'

HBO's Veep - Episode 6.01 "Omaha"

One year after losing the presidency, Selina attempts to secure her legacy. Dan tries to ingratiate himself at his new job. Amy's brash D.C.-style personality proves too much for her new co-workers.

Veep did the impossible in its fifth season by continuing to be one of the best comedies on television despite changing showrunners. It was an impressive season that gave Julia Louis-Dreyfus another Emmy as well as a Best Comedy win for the show for the second year in a row. It also ended in a very smart and surprising way. Not only did Selina Meyer lose the presidency, she was voted out of politics all together. She wasn't even going back to being the Vice President. It was a stunning and inspired ending that created an uncertain future for both the characters and the show. Of course, it also proved to be the appropriate move to make because of just how crazy real-life politics has become in the past year. Veep has always excelled by being an uproariously funny political satire that exposes the stupidity and vulgarity of those who hold public office. When those blunders are becoming more commonplace and silly in real life, it could have damaged the effectiveness of this show's tone. It could be seen as a sobering documentary instead of a brilliantly hilarious and cunning takedown of the political system. Getting Selina out of politics is a great move for this time because it takes her away from the absurdity of her being completely unqualified for the job of the President of the United States. Now, she's simply an ex-President trying to find the next direction of her life.

Of course, it's also necessary for this premiere to provide a definitive answer to the question of if she'll run again for President. It's simply something that had to happen in this first episode back. Otherwise, all of the misadventures she gets into this season will just seem like a pitstop until she can run again. In order for the stories of this season to have some weight and importance, it needed to be said that Selina won't be running for President. It's not because she doesn't want to. It's hilarious to think she's still in denial a little bit about the fact that she's not President. She's a woman who craves power and being the center of attention. She's used to getting her way. This seems like a reasonable thing for her to do. She's going to make it happen no matter what. She's going to get back to the White House because that's incredibly better than the new offices she has in the Bronx. She's simply going through the routine of what a former president does upon leaving office. She's writing a memoir and forming a charitable foundation. She actually hasn't put in the work to make either of those things a success though. She's simply going through the motions until she can prepare for another run. That's something that she wants. She doesn't want the life she is currently living.

It's a huge wake up call for Selina when she is told she can't run again for President because she no longer has the support of anyone. It's absolutely fascinating to see how she is treated throughout this episode. She is constantly reminding people that she was the first female President of the United States. And yet, everyone else wants to talk about the accomplishments of Laura Montez, who has already won the Nobel Peace Prize. Selina is no longer the center of attention. People are just not interested in what she has to give the world. She's delusional in her beliefs that she can run again. The party has moved on from her. Everyone else has moved on with their lives and exploring different opportunities. Some are happy and some are not. The cast has been scattered throughout this world. It won't be easy to reunite them somehow. It just takes Ben sitting Selina down to explain everything to her for her to finally accept it. Catherine is openly weeping about the thought of her mother being President again. Selina is so abusive to her daughter. And now, Catherine finds herself with all the power because she's giving her mother monthly checks. She doesn't want to go back to the status quo. This premiere confirms that the show has no plans of doing so either.

Of course, this episode is a very table-setting premiere as well. It picks up the story one year after Selina was voted out of office. It's just enough time for these characters to explore different career opportunities. This episode shows what all of them are up to. It's not surprising in the slightest that Gary is still working for Selina. He's going to be her personal assistant for the rest of her life. It doesn't seem like anyone could possibly tear them apart - even though Selina still isn't all that appreciative of everything that Gary does. It's a little more surprising to see which other characters have made the move to Selina's foundation as well. Marjorie is the one actually running it but Selina is still forcing her to call her "ma'am" instead of "mom" or "Selina." Richard has broken away from Jonah and is now constantly by Selina's side as well. That's always a terrific character pairing because Richard takes whatever Selina says so seriously. She makes a joke and then he tries to go get that exact thing for her. It's hilarious. Meanwhile, Ben and Mike start the season in different jobs. Ben is a political consultant at Uber while Mike is struggling as a stay-at-home dad. It's largely just important that they return to Selina's orbit by the end of this premiere. Ben proves himself invaluable because Selina actually gets and respects his type of humor. But Mike is simply a necessity because he actually kept notes about what happened during Selina's brief Presidency.

And finally, it's absolutely horrifying that Jonah is using his cancer diagnosis to earn political favors and good will. It's not all that surprising. It's hard to feel bad for him because he's such an awful person as well. He's constantly ridiculed by the other characters. But he dishes it out just as much as he takes it. He's not always successful with that. In fact, most of the time he says the absolute wrong thing at the wrong time. It's hilarious to see Dan try to manipulate that to his advantage to get out of his new job as a host of "CBS This Morning." It doesn't work because he seems to be surprised that viral clips can boost ratings. It's also surprising that Jonah is able to restrain himself from actually swearing on air. He simply says "F You" instead of "Fuck you." It's a minor moment of growth. It still goes as horribly as Dan expected. But the repercussions don't go quite as planned. Similarly, Amy is now running her fiancé's campaign for governor. It's such an odd couple pairing because he's this sweet, wholesome guy who doesn't want to run attack adds while Amy is this vicious political operative who will do or say anything to get ahead. It's the story that may be the most tangential in this premiere. Though that's largely because Amy isn't interacting with anyone else from the main cast - which I'm sure won't last long this season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Omaha" was written by Lew Morton and directed by David Mandel.
  • It's hilarious that Dan is the person interviewing Selina in her first big sit down since leaving office. It's a surprising reveal that shows how their lives are completely different now. They are no longer working on the same time. But Selina continues to prove herself as an excellent interviewee who is able to work around any questions she doesn't want to answer. Of course, it means the foundation now has to work with AIDS research as well.
  • Marjorie telling people that Selina gave her AIDS is just a fantastic joke. Someone who delivers lines in a dry way so that others don't know how she truly feels isn't a new character type in comedy. And yet, it's a role that really works well on this show.
  • Selina and Andrew reuniting is a surprise as well. He's now a major part of her life again despite Gary's constant disgust. Of course, he's still a scummy conman who shouldn't be anywhere near this foundation. And yet, he is. Richard's reactions to everything Andrew says are wonderful though.
  • Jonah and Kent are such a completely random and new character pairing. However, their brief interaction here is terrific. This is clearly not a job Kent wants. He doesn't want to be working for someone like Jonah. And yet, it's the situation he currently finds himself in and has to do the work regardless.
  • Sue is the only main character who doesn't appear in this premiere. It would be easy to assume that she's still working as the official secretary for the President, right? She managed to keep that job at the end of last season. And yet, does that mean she's gone forever? Or simply until one of the main characters needs to return to the Oval Office again?