It’s weird that the emerging consensus on HBO’s Veep is that it’s unenjoyable because it’s not realistic, and it’s not realistic because it’s too cynical, given that the meme for the last two or 20 years has been that Washington is broken.
The show, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as an unprincipled and powerless vice president was endorsed as quite accurate by Jeff Nussbaum, who served as a speech writer for two vice presidents. Nussbaum told GQ’s Reid Cherlin that Veep hits the mark with its wall-to-wall cussing (including “pencil f—king”), the portrayal of patronizing presidential staff, the terrible advice offered by civilians, the codependency of some aides, and even the sets. And yet, it is wrong, all wrong—at least according to political reporters.
“If the aim of this show is to get viewers to disrespect everybody in elected office, mission accomplished,” The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift writes. On Slate’s Political Gabfest, David Plotz said, “The West Wing was inaccurate in that it left out all the incompetence, hilarity, vanity, self-obsession, narcissism of American politics, and this show left out all the idealism and attempt to accomplish things in American politics… But as it happens, this is a moment when there isn’t a lot being accomplished in American politics, so maybe it rings more true.” Plotz’s colleague, John Dickerson, reported that, no, it’s worse: “A show that’s so soaked in cynicism about politics as a work of art smacks as lazy.” […]
The West Wing’s idealism was more accurate than Veep’s cynicism, Macleans‘ Jaime Weinman says, because “if you look at political gridlock today, and the causes of it, you’ll often find that it’s caused by anincrease in idealism, and more idealistic people working in government. In the U.S., there’s a lot of hand-wringing about gridlock and the inability of government to get anything done, but the reason for that is that ideology is more important than it ever was before.”
Maybe it depends on how you define “before.” The idea that “Washington is broken” is certainly repeated endlessly these days. Take, for example, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake explaining why Sen. Bob Portman’s support among political insiders makes him a bad choice for vice-president. “People really, really dislike politicians,” they write. “They hate Washington. They think politics is broken — maybe irreparably.” Maybe irreparably? Americans sound primed for a cynical show!
Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: HBO]
Can’t say anything about Veep, I haven’t seen it. But I’m amazed at these assessments of The West Wing. David Plotz has somehow gotten it into his head that The West Wing, “was inaccurate in that it left out all the incompetence, hilarity, vanity, self-obsession, narcissism of American politics.” Point and laugh at David Plotz, ladies and gentlemen. There was plenty of incompetence (the show’s pilot is paced forward by a moment of incompetence), lots of hilarity, an abundance of vanity and self-obsession (two characters were speechwriters, after all) and as for narcissism, well there was a whole very special episode about 9-11.
Even still, what most people don’t seem to remember about the show is that while it did set off with this sort of “go-get-em, public service served up with pluck and gumption” mentality, it eventually passed from Aaron Sorkin’s hands to John Wells, whose idea of what makes good television drama is numbingly melancholy romantic entanglements. By the time the show had entered it’s later years, it was nearly joyless, though there was some redemption to be had in its final season.
I think it’s smart for political reporters to “get out in front of” Veep, since given enough time, I’m sure that Armando Ianucci will get around to depicting them as the typically cosseted and unbearably thin-skinned pussies that they really are.
Totally right about “The West Wing” decline post-Sorkin. I’ve seen the first two episodes of “Veep” and totally love it. As a huge “In The Loop” fan, I love the over the top vulgarity and the friendly hatred many of the characters have for one another. I think this is going to be a great show.
I wouldn’t get my TV advice from a political reporter.