“Veep” Aims High

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ winning HBO comedy promises a new season of irreverent humor at a time when we can use some comic relief in the fictional and real political realms.

Consider this: A vice president gleefully grabs the Oval Office after the president suddenly resigns, but faces party dissension and an uphill battle in the primaries.

Or this: An experienced, ambitious politician who spurs strong feelings among supporters and detractors alike vies to become the first woman elected president of the United States. 

The first scenario echoes the most recent season of Netflix’ "House of Cards," which ignited binge-watching in Washington and beyond last month. The second will begin publicly playing out the moment Hillary Clinton announces her seemingly inevitable second run for president.

Those worlds come together – or collide – with the April 12 return of HBO's "Veep," whose fourth season arrives in sync with the pop and political cultures.  “Veep” promises irreverent humor at a time when we can use some comic relief in both the fictional and real political realms.

That kind of hopeful sentiment would be anathema to the beleaguered title character in a program whose name – at least for the short term – is a misnomer. Julia Louis-Dreyfus puts on the performance of her career as president-for-now Selina Meyer, a ball of energy and frustration whose smiling public face belies her irascibility and insecurity (as she said of her presidential rivals in last season’s finale: “God, can't we just take them out? Is Jack Ruby still alive?”). 

That’s one of few printable quotes from a character with the freedom (thanks to HBO) to curse more like a sailor than a commander in chief. Most of her Tumblr-friendly, f-bomb-laden insults are aimed at her inner circle of political players who show varying degrees of loyalty and brains, which tend to run in inverse proportion.

Selina, whose new shoes squeaked as she walked to the East Room podium to deliver her first public remarks as president, is far from quiet, but sometimes struggles to be heard. She’s relatable if not always likable, which makes her at least half different from the scheming Underwoods of “House of Cards.”

Meyer’s White House is less a house of cards than a funhouse, complete with an array of political clowns and trick mirrors (or, in her case, the trick glass door she once unwittingly walked through amid trying to smash the proverbial glass ceiling). This season, the accidental president seeks to stick around for at least four more years, putting the upcoming 2016 primary season through a perhaps prescient comic prism.

But even if Selina remains in the Oval Office, she’ll still be treated like she's second best – at best. Check out a preview above as “Veep” aims higher.

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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