A documentary style seems to be a new trend in packaging both film and TV series. The style for this less-dramatized approach is called cinema verite, or truthful cinema. One of the latest TV shows to use this approach is “Veep,” which premiered on HBO Asia this week.
The comedy takes place inside the office of a fictional vice president of the United States. Playing Vice President Selina Meyer is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, best-known for her role as Elaine in “Seinfeld” and a frequent Emmy Awards nominee.
The pilot begins with a conflict between Meyer’s agenda to push a clean jobs initiative” — an effort to encourage Americans to use utensils made out of cornstarch — and the plastics industry. Her efforts garner a predictably chilly response from the plastics industry, which, connected to the oil industry, wields huge influence in the US government. She also butts up against sluggish, or nonexistent, enthusiasm from US senators, and suffers the humiliation of having one of her speeches redacted to the point where little more than the greeting remains.
Watching Meyer get buffeted by the tides of industry and politics is funny and painful in equal measure, and Dreyfus does an admirable job of portraying an endlessly bubbly vice president, but one who may seem a bit too clumsy for someone of such high office.
The rest of the cast shine as well, mainly made up of organized-on-the-outside but chaotic-behind-the-scenes staffers. Anna Chlumsky, of “My Girl” fame, plays Amy Brookheimer, a staff member who in the first episode mistakenly signs her own name instead of Meyer’s on a greeting card for a senator, leaving Meyer overwhelmed and outraged.
And Tony Hale is hilarious as Gary Walsh, Meyer’s personal aide and source of support.
“Veep” was created by Scottish comedian, writer and TV director Armando Iannucci. Iannucci is known for creating the Bafta award-winning comedy series “The Thick of It,” which gives a look at the inner workings of the British government.
A large part of the appeal of “Veep” is Meyer’s staff’s “staggering incompetence,” as she puts it. The staff is expertly portrayed as deceptively calm when out in public while behind the scenes they sweat and panic over their BlackBerries trying to figure out who is in charge at any given moment.
The show is worth watching for anyone with an interest in character-driven satirical send-ups of the modern political system. And anyone who enjoys watching hapless staffers fall over each other in an attempt to climb the ladder.
“Veep” premiered on HBO Asia at 9 p.m. Jakarta time on Monday and will run until Aug. 20.