Veep Season 4 Review: The President’s Flying Monkeys

President Selina Meyer. Photo: HBO

I recalled having minor issues with Veep back when it premiered in 2012, but I had to Google my review to remember what they were. Turns out I was slightly disappointed by it because, for some godforsaken reason, I'd been the impression that it would be more of a stingingly relevant political satire, maybe something along the lines of Tanner '88. What we got was a flat-out farce whose high-stakes setting was almost incidental (and funny for its near-irrelevance): basically a fairly classical "complications ensue" sitcom, but with security clearance and drone strikes and so forth, fronted by super-narcissists less concerned with the executive branch's impact on history than whether a particular suit or dress made them look fat. This, of course, is what Veep's creator and executive producer, Armando Iannucci, does better than pretty much anyone. As my misgivings were piddling, I hereby retroactively withdraw them and drown them in a very small bathtub, quietly, so as not to wake the neighbors.

You don't need to know much about the plot of season four, except that former vice-president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is settling into the most powerful office on Earth following its previous occupant's sudden resignation in the wake of his wife's suicide attempt, enjoying all the perks it affords, and stumbling into various public-relations disasters thanks to the incompetence of her staff, the treachery of her political enemies, and her own hubris and inattention to detail. Louis-Dreyfus is her usual Swiss-watch self, so confident that she seems to glide through her scenes, one of which is an extended, surprisingly intense air-clearing convo between Selina and her assistant Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) that belongs on both actors’ career-best clip reel.

Patton Oswalt joins the cast as a petty, mind-effing chief of staff to the new vice-president (Phil Reeves’s former senator Andrew Doyle); he has, shall we say, a too-familiar way of using his hands. The show’s version of light humor is Ben Caffrey (Kevin Dunn) speculating that President Reagan paid John Hinckley to shoot him so he could spend a couple of weeks in bed letting other people deal with all the crap of the presidency. The premiere episode flashes forward to a TelePrompTer fail, then backs up to show us how it happened. It probably all started when somebody decided to rework the previous president’s most recent State of the Union address, insert some “cut-y, spend-y” new material, and lay out Selina’s vision for the future. Of course she has no vision for the future, nor do her advisors. The text placeholder is “Future whatever.”

Things get increasingly mortifying from there. You don’t need to know exactly why or how, and I’d rather not tell you — it would spoil the fun of watching the grievances, misunderstandings, and errors in judgment pile up. Content yourself with this short list of phrases that will instantly find their way into memes: “Cock-thumb,” “Columbian tongue sex,” “popped your cardiac cherry,” “the president’s flying monkeys,” “your inner child needs to grow an outer man,” “this goat’s not gonna scape itself,” and “the long and the shit of it.” There are hundreds more where those came from, plus Cubist manglings of syntax that result in moments like Anna Chlumsky’s Amy Brookheimer asking, “Why would you do that the fuck for?” You know why.