How to binge watch... 'Veep'

The insults in this political satire smack so hard they leave a mark

Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, HBO, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars in 'Veep' [HBO

Why binge Veep?

Spinning gold out of the ‘also ran’ is no easy feat, but perhaps the ace up Veep’s sleeve is more how brilliantly the show revels in boredom. Transporting the BBC’s brutal and brilliant satire The Thick of It from Westminster to Washington DC to details the daily duties of the American vice president, the show presents viewers with a cast of political characters, bright and dim, coming to terms with being second rate.

The writing is savagely funny, tossing profanity and twisting it into abstract phrases of absurdist obscenity. The F and C-bombs do the heavy lifting when it comes to shock value, but it’s the bitingly wicked wordplay and invention that lingers long after. “What are you laughing about, Jolly Green Jizz Face?”

Jaded is the word that best sums up the administration of Vice President Selina Meyer, played by a never-better Julia Louis-Dreyfus – which is saying something for a comedic actress who’s been at the top of her game for almost three decades as a TV star. She’s ably backed by a staff of egos, shrewd and self-serving, sycophantic and useless, with performers relishing tossing barbs at each other and making them sting.

The show also knows how to take a risk, driving the plot to places the viewer is not expecting, making a binge of HBO’s best comedy series not only a necessity, but also making repeat viewing a reward.

How long will it take to binge?

Despite the show just wrapping its fifth season, there are only 48 episodes in total. That all adds up to a very manageable 22 hours of television, making for an easy two-week binge of two to three episodes a night. And frankly, with its short running time, you might want to squeeze in a fourth.

Where can you binge it?

All five seasons are available On Demand on Sky. The first four seasons are available on DVD, with the fifth coming in September.

Any hurdles to overcome?

Certainly having even a basic knowledge of American politics can only but help, as new characters introduced to the show typically come with a cabinet position attached to their name. Other than that, the narrative follows a season-long arc so it’s not advisable to skip any of the episodes. Some do lag in parts, but there’s always at least one gem insult somewhere along the way to make it worthwhile.

Who steals the show?

It’s nigh impossible to impeach Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s lead performance, but if anyone comes close it’s Tony Hale as Gary Walsh. As Selina’s personal aide and bag man, he can be a slow sell to viewers, much like his Buster Bluth was in Arrested Development. But over the course of the show, his loyalty and determination to his boss become increasingly funny, the defence he mounts on her behalf increasingly outlandish, while her constant disinterest works as a perfect counter point. It's no wonder that while Louis-Dreyfus has been awarded an Emmy for every season of the show so far, Hale is not far behind with two of his own.

A scene to sample:

Spoiler-riddled for those who don’t want it, but the meltdown by Anna ‘My Girl’ Chlumsky’s Amy Brookheimer in Season 4, Episode 5 is among the finest the show has ever produced:

What to follow up with when you’ve binged the whole thing:

Purists will claim that The Thick of It is a better show, but the American iteration arguably makes better use of its corridors of power to create a higher stakes sitcom. But when you’ve finished Veep, treat yourself to Peter Capaldi’s turn as Malcolm Tucker, director of communications for the government of the UK, a character whose mother tongue is profanity. Less of a spin doctor than a spin professor, his work on The Thick of It and the movie spin-off In the Loop, is pitch perfect.

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