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Vulture Precaps: True Blood, Girls, Mad Men, and Veep

Season Five of 'True Blood.' (HBO)

True Blood

Game of Thrones is finished, which means True Blood is back on HBO. It's been a while, so those who do not remember every last thing that went down in Bon Temps last year are briefly forgiven. For an extensive refresher, take a look at Vulture's Season Four recaps. At the very least, at least make sure you know who is dead and who is only kind of dead.

Girls

What happened last week: As predicted, a post-breakup Marnie did her best to live a little, and the results were absurd, though she and Jessa did gain some insight into how the other half of Williamsburg lives (in highrises on the waterfront, bitterly.) Hannah accompanied Adam on a run and then to a tech rehearsal for his play, which ended with him blowing up at his co-star over issues of artistic integrity (or nerves.) However, after some quality time spent lounging around his apartment in matching long underwear onesies, she was able to convince him to split the creative differences.
What's happened since then: Vulture’s Kyle Hilton created some Girls paper dolls to tide you over once the season’s finished (only two more episodes!) Lena Dunham gave a bunch of interviews: She spoke to spoke to the New York Times about her dog, the L.A. Times about the usual (diversity and nudity), and to TVLine about Emmy buzz. And the Huffington Post created a quiz to help you figure out which Girls character you most resemble, as if you hadn’t already done that on your own.
What to look for tonight: The girls make a trip to what looks like a book party at the Jane, where Hannah flirts with Christopher Moltisanti, who is not dead after all (or, more likely, an author played by Michael Imperioli.) Jessa will have to decide whether or not to return to her babysitting gig, and Shoshanna sets up an online dating profile, so prepare to be introduced to a guy with some kind of weird habit and/or physical feature.

Mad Men

What happened last week: Ken Cosgrove reacted to a request to court his father-in-law’s company by playing hardball, and Sally snuck out for something like a date with Glen at the Museum of Natural History. And, after much speculation about who it would be, the season’s long-hinted-at death finally took place, with Lane Pryce hanging himself in his office after Don declined to give him the chance to pay back his “loan” from the agency.  
What's happened since then: We devoted a lot of thought to the season and tonight’s finale, including (but not limited to) a tribute to Lane (and a chat with the actor who played him), the idea of Don as the show’s Angel of Death, and what turned into a debate about what we maintain is the show’s historically inaccurate divorce rate. Elsewhere, Matthew Weiner talked to the L.A. Times about not addressing the Civil Rights movement. Actors John Slattery and Vincent Kartheiser talked to TV Guide about what’s next for their characters (Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell, respectively.) Finally, the Atlantic Wire explored the show’s musical anachronisms.
What to look for tonight: Peggy, whose start at her new job did not make last week’s episode. Plus, the neat resolution of all the show’s remaining conflicts, because that’s how Mad Men works — right?

Veep

HBO's newest show features Julia Louis-Drefyus as the largely powerless Vice-President Selina Meyer dodging all the ritualistic crap that Washington, D.C. can throw at her. Now that the first season is coming to a close, we can definitively say that we like the show. So, in preparation for tonight's finale, a look back at the first nine episodes, what the critics have been saying, and what to watch for if you're just tuning in.

What happened this season: The slow and painful process by which Meyer's Clean Jobs Act gets co-opted by the president's Big Oil pals, then shunted aside. Meyer's reassignment to the obesity task force (her reaction to trusty chief of staff Amy Brookheimer: "The president knows I am made uncomfortable by fat people. You want to know the secret to keeping weight off? Shut your fucking pie hole .... Put down the cupcake.") The time the veep got borderline racist on national television. Or that time she fell asleep on CSPAN. Amy and political strategist Dan Egan vying pitifully for the "Only Sane Person in the Office" award. Arrested Development's Tony Hale splendidly earnest as Meyer's wet wipes-and-pregnancy test-toting assistant. (And, for that matter, the comically excruciating pregnancy scare plot arc that closed out last week.) We'll also never forget the "Nicknames" episode, where Meyer hears for the first time the long list of really quite nasty nicknames the DC blogosphere has for her. (Among our favorites: Viagra Prohibitor [not, as Meyer believes, a compliment], Wicked Witch of the West Wing, Voldemeyer, Selena Meh, Betty Poop, Vaguely Personable, Mrs. Doubtmeyer, and Piss Face.) Speaking of smelly things, we'd be remiss to forget Jonah Ryan, the lanky, oily-skinned White House liaison. Then there's the quietly delicious moment in each episode where Meyer asks her secretary: "Has the president called?" (The answer is always the same.) The avoidance tricks we've learned along the way, such as the "walk and talk" or the "widow walk." And, last but not least, there's Meyer's Guinness Book of World Records–deserving stint as the TV character who most uses the word "fuck."

What the critics have been saying:

  • Matt Zoller Seitz, New York magazine's TV critic: "For all its madcap goofiness, Veep doesn’t say or add up to much — which, in a way, suggests it’s the right satire for a political era marked by stupid feuds, inertia, and superficiality."
  • David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle: It's "funny and fresh," he says, and not nearly as implausible as it first seems given the Amazing Secret Service Prostitution Pileup or the Great GSA Las Vegas Escapade. "You really have to hand it to [series creator Armando Iannucci], and to HBO, for daring to put this on TV while the presidential race is building steam and offering a chance to compare real-life officials to the satirically fictionalized variety."
  • Tim Goodman for The Hollywood Reporter: A "raw, fast-paced political comedy," he writes, "Louis-Dreyfus has found perhaps her best post-Seinfeld role and takes to it with such fervor—the constant swearing, the barely veiled desire to become president, the unhappy give-and-take with other politicians and a delightful disdain for average citizens—that you can’t help but applaud what is clearly an Emmy-worthy effort. […] Most important, Veep looks as if it’s being filmed right next to the real thing and as if Iannucci and his writers are simply mirroring the ineptness and soul-crushing compromises around them."
  • Mark Schmitt writing in the New Republic: "While Veep can be very funny, most critics agree that it lacks the bite of Iannucci’s earlier works [such as his 2009 film In the Loop]." The series' coyness over which party Meyer belongs to is also, he believes, hollow. "Meyer is plainly a token liberal serving a more moderate Democratic president." At the end of the day, Veep lacks a "feeling of tragedy or pathos. As in Seinfeld, life is an endless stream of annoyances and embarrassments, but you move on. Without painfully feeling the futility of sensible liberalism, there isn’t quite enough comedy. The show will be better when Selina Meyer stops smiling — and there’s a lesson there for liberalism in the real world as well." 

What to look for tonight: The episode's title, "Tears," seems to be a reference to the emotional state of Meyer and her staff after getting the veep's latest (dis)approval numbers. At a staggering 66 percent, it's no wonder phrases like "damaged goods" and "political leper" are being bandied about, and the Ohio gubernatorial candidate Meyer planned to stump for wants nothing to do with her. That, and the veep's crowning glory, the Clean Jobs Bill, finally makes its way to Congress — just a little more battered, water-down, and pork-filled than she'd initially envisioned.