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Review: Amusing 'Veep' Cheaply Sidesteps A Major Plot Development For Laughs

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 3, 2012 at 10:30PM

Well, that was kind of cheap. After ending last week's episode on a potential game-changing plot development, it seems Armando Ianucci didn't have the balls to follow through with it, or least see where Selina Meyer's (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) pregnancy could take the story in "Veep." It's not even five minutes into "Full Disclosure" when we learn that she's had a miscarriage, and the crisis of the moment is flushed out to focus on a bland minor incident from a couple of episodes back, with the media reporting that the veep's office fired a Secret Service agent because he smiled.
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Veep Julia Louis-Dreyfuss Reid Scott
Season 1, Episode 7: "Full Disclosure"

Well, that was kind of cheap. After ending last week's episode on a potential game-changing plot development, it seems Armando Iannucci didn't have the balls to follow through with it, or least see where Selina Meyer's (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) pregnancy could take the story in "Veep." It's not even five minutes into "Full Disclosure" when we learn that she's had a miscarriage, and the crisis of the moment is flushed out to focus on a bland minor incident from a couple of episodes back, with the media reporting that the veep's office fired a Secret Service agent because he smiled.

We sort of predicted that the pregnancy might be explained away, but "Veep" hasn't earned the right to be this flippant ("It's fine, it's fine, it was like a heavy period. Don't worry about it.") about such issues just yet. Where a show like "Seinfeld" had such an established comedic tone combined with near-flawless writing to be able to pull it off (on network TV no less), "Veep" is still too uneven for audiences to believably take that leap. We've barely seen Selina outside of work, or really know much about who she is beyond her political persona, and while a miscarriage is obviously something that earns immediate sympathy, how it's handled here feels like a cut-rate maneuver rather than smart writing. The whole issue itself -- and how the media and fellow colleagues might handle the rumors -- would have been a great arc to take into the season finale, and opened up the show a lot more. Surely, at least two episodes could have been centered around the pregnancy and its repercussions, before playing the miscarriage card. Instead, we're back to fluffier, easier, more softball stuff -- which is still amusing -- but the shine is taken off the show a bit this week.

"Veep" launches back into another scandal of sorts for an increasingly frustrated Selina to deal with, as she becomes more and more disenchanted with her team. The media is having a field day with the Secret Service agent issue leading to calls for Selina's office to release their personnel records. Amy (Anna Chlumsky), whose name has already been leaked as the one who axed the agent, comes up with the idea to do a full disclosure, releasing all of the office's emails and phone call logs reasoning, "So that by showing we have nothing to hide, we can hide some stuff." As the staff gears up to release the material, Mike (Matt Walsh) heads to the home of the Secret Service agent to try and smooth things over but only makes things much, much worse. "You were transferred for being jocular and over familiar. Security guys are supposed to be like wallpaper, they're not supposed to be grinning like some ape," Mike tells him. The next news bit to hit the air is the latter half of the quote, along with word that the agent was bullied and threatened.

And that's not the only effort that's backfired. The full disclosure by the veep's office is being seen in the media as an "E-nami," an attempt to hide something in a deluge of material. And even worse, all the nights Ted (Andy Buckley) has stayed over at the official residence has been revealed as well, only spurring the pregnancy rumors that are still flying out there. And Selina has had enough. She rounds up Amy, Mike and Dan (Reid Scott) in her office and very plainly states that the only way she can come out these mounting fuck-ups is to fire somebody "important enough" to show she's dealing with those who have acted irresponsibly. And she warns it's going to be one of three.

Meanwhile, the pregnancy rumors and media scrutiny have blown the relationship between Selina and Ted out into the open, and he's freaking out. The pair rendezvous at Gary's (Tony Hale) house to try and sort things out, but simply put, Ted is not built to be hounded by the media, and the novelty of screwing the veep in private has since evaporated. Sensing she's about to be dumped, Selina tasks Gary with ending her relationship with Ted, so she's the one who walks out with the upper hand (which feels like a borrowed move from "Seinfeld").

Back at the office, Selina rounds up Amy, Mike and Dan to reveal which one she's going to fire, but before she can get into it, Gary surprisingly tries to resign. He learns that the pregnancy rumor leaked because he was spotted buying pregnancy tests wearing his White House ID badge. "I'm not going to let go the one person in this core group who actually gives a shit about me," Selina tells him, rejecting his letter of resignation. Getting back to the task at hand, Amy, Mike and Dan stand firm saying they've formed a suicide pact: if one goes, they all go. Of course, their own self-interest gets in the way and Selina has no problem taking the pact apart. Sending Mike and Dan out of her office with a stern warning, Selina is left with Amy, her loyal Chief of Staff, who has been at the center of pretty much everything that has gone wrong. What can she do to fix all the issues that seem to be swirling around her? Amy is going to take the fall, and attach the pregnancy rumors to her name to save her job and clear Selina.

Of course, in the real world, a single woman in the veep's office becoming pregnant (real or not) could have a major impact on her career in what is still a mostly male-driven Capitol Hill. But given that Iannucci has made it clear he's not willing to get too close to touchy material, this will probably be comedic fodder for maybe another episode before we get back to the wacky hijinks of Selina and her team. There is a casualness about "Veep" that is both intriguing and frustrating. Clearly the show is taking the piss at the mountain-out-of-a-molehill mindset that tends to dominate politics and that's where the attitude works. But that laissez-faire approach isn't always appropriate or doesn't always come together, and in the case of this whole pregnancy thing, winds up playing as a missed opportunity. We said recently that "Veep" was hitting its stride, but this week, the show took one step back. [B-]

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


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