Arts Desk

Veep, Week 2: Selina Brings the Yoghurt

In which Arts Desk and DCist discuss Veep, HBO's new comedy about the vice presidency

Ben: As far as Veep's quickly escalating creative profanity goes, "Fuckety-doo-da, fuckety-yay!" and the simile involving self-fisting were solid; better still was  "gold-plated fucking shit gibbon." In fact, Veep abounds in zoological insults: A senator is referred to as a "big hog-fucker"; frustrated with Selina's striving aide Dan, Postie Leon West protests that he's "standing here like a fucking meerkat." Appropriate, maybe, since Veep depicts the scrambling survival of Washington's not-so-fittest. It's not too much a stretch to say the characters of Armando Iannucci's Washington spend their time behaving like animals. You don't get much more primal than taking a crap in public.

That's how Selina ends this episode, which—as you note—piles humiliation upon humiliation. But I enjoyed Iannucci's knack for more subtle kinds of physical comedy. When Selina emerges from her negotiations with Sen. Doyle, she's greeted by Amy, her chief of staff, whose fists are pushed against her own face with their thumbs up. When Selina meekly tells Amy (Anna Chlumsky) she botched the meeting by agreeing to keep representatives of the oil industry off of a green-jobs commission, Amy's thumbs deflate along with her smile. And all of this happens in less than a few seconds. "I need you to have made me unsaid it," Selina tells her staff.

We could talk at length about Selina's mishandling by her handlers, but she digs plenty of her own ditches. Last week, I wrote that I don't think Selina's a moron; she's stuck in a job basically designed as a hamster wheel. This week's episode suggests the free world is better off with Selina a building away from the the nuclear codes. For her, getting to hang out in the Situation Room while the president's been sidelined with a cardiac ailment is a chance to project leadership; she's less concerned with asking questions or doing the job seriously. Selina is basically a creature of optics.

Luckily for us, and unluckily for her, she's not terribly good at the optics. Her primary run was undone, she seems to allude here, by a gaffe involving a phallic-shaped foodstuff. (How has this not plagued the generations of D.C. politicians that have been obliged to show fealty to Ben's Chili Bowl?) And her appearance at a local yogurt shop really brings the, um, yoghurt. She's late on account of the her brief stay in the Situation Room; by the time she gets to her photo op with D.C.'s "normals," she's caught the bug that's plagued characters all episode. "This is like dairy Defcon 1," Amy says.

It's also Real D.C. Defcon 1. In addition to our running tally of creative cursing, we may want to keep track of Veep's allusions to the Washington folks actually live in. When Selina, having a massive gap in her schedule, decides she wants to "normalize" a bit, her staff offers some suggestions: They could stop by a book fair in Adams Morgan, Amy offers. (I guess it's the wrong season for Crafty Bastards.) Or, proposes Dan, they could visit the frozen yogurt shop on U Street NW, "owned by three generations of African Americans."

Ben, do Veep's depictions of our D.C. strike true? How long till they Selina's taking the Metro in Georgetown? "2.you" or "fuck.you?"

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