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Recap: 3 Weeks In, 'Veep' Gets More Focused & Funny While Taking A Bold Narrative Leap

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 2, 2012 at 4:07PM

Listen, we know our "Veep" recaps dropped off for the past few weeks. A combination of the Cannes Film Festival and screeners that didn't arrive in time led to the gap in coverage, but when we finally sat down to catch up on what we missed, we were in for a very pleasant surprise: "Veep" has hit its stride in a major way. Unlike the overstuffed and strenously zany first three episodes of the season, a sharper focus on story and the stripping away of extraneous subplots has allowed the show's humor to come right to the fore, and the results speak for themselves. Laugh-out-loud funny in a way it hasn't been yet, and finally bringing greater dimension to the lead character Selina Meyer, "Veep" is now showing the teeth we've been wanting to see since the pilot and taking a bold story jump as well. Instead of doing full-blown recounts of what's gone down in over the last three episodes, we're going to summarize them briefly, each with a letter grade, before getting back in the swing of things tomorrow.
Veep Baseball

Episode 6: "Baseball"
Last week's episode sees "Veep" taking a big storytelling risk with only a couple of episodes left in the season, and one that finally sees the show tackling issues of gender and politics head on. When the staff decamps to Baltimore and Camden Yards for the new Heathy Eating Iniative, Selina reveals to Amy that she might be pregnant, and the reactions from everyone involved point to a darker side to D.C. than the show has shown before. Amy and Mike's first worry is about how it will play in the media, and what it will mean for her career. Even Selina scrambles to make a best case scenario for the pregnancy, commanding Ted to buy her an engagement ring and working with Sue to look at her calendar to establish a backstory as to when and where he would have proposed. But we really see D.C.'s ugly side when Dan initially thinks it's Amy whose pregnant, and presumes that if she goes on maternity leave, he would be the obvious choice for her job. Meanwhile, Gary might as well be the father himself considering how happy he is to hear the news. By the show's end, the results of the pregnancy tests are back, and yes, Selina is having a baby. Tossing pregnancy into the storyline is a huge hand grenade not only because the show is still in the first season, but because it will be tricky to navigate this territory with taste. But it also opens the chance to truly develop the show in the direction of addressing the challenges of being a woman and a mother in the highest corridors of power in Washington. Again, pretty ballsy territory for a comedy -- and who knows how this plot will resolve itself -- but it's a gamble that's paying off so far. We're very curious to see where the story goes next and if this scare will simply be explained away (we're half expecting Gary to have fucked up reading the pregnancy tests) or embraced, and the show moving in a wholly different direction. Particularly if it's the latter, we admire the ambition. [B]

Quotes of note:
"Are you pregnant? Career-wise that's like joining Scientology or getting a fucking neck tattoo."
"Why would we need to ban smiling? It's not like it's something we have time for in the first place."
"Is this for real? ‘Cause if it is, the best thing for her legacy is if she’s assassinated before she starts showing."

Closing Thoughts: 
Two words: Anna Chlumsky. Aside from Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is, predictably, excellent in the title role, Chlumsky has emerged as the show's MVP. Sharp and witty, not only does she convincingly command the role as Selina's much-needed advisor and confidante, she's funny as hell. There is no one better on the show who can take Armando Ianucci's carefully crafted one-liners and deliver them absolutely pitch-perfectly. Chlumsky's energy alone often propels the story and it won't be long before Hollywood is paying attention (Judd Apatow, please take note). It's also nice to see Selina actually start to hold her staff accountable for their fuck-ups. Watching her take them down a couple notches -- particularly in "Nicknames" -- makes her seem more like a real Vice President, and less of a cartoon.

The guest casting has been spot on too. It's really nice to see Andy Buckley in the mix even though we wish he was given more to do. He can be such a great and subtle comedic talent; we hope he gets to showcase his talents a little more. And it was a pleasant surprise to see Patrick Fischler show up in "Baseball" ("Mad Men" fans know him as the sleazy Jimmy Barrett) as a photographer, and it led to one of the great credit gags of the season, with his numerous in-the-moment snaps of everyone at their worst, filtering by in a great montage.

Finally, please no more Filibuster Reform/Clean Jobs plot threads. It's boring, it's played out. The shows tend to grind to a halt when dealing with these manueverings, and they're not particularly compelling, so hopefully with the pregnancy coming forward, they will be tabled.

This article is related to: Veep, TV Reviews, Television

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