Tuned In

The Morning After: Is Veep Better Off Now Than It Was Two Episodes Ago?

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This is not a review of Veep, exactly—for my original review of the series, see here. But I like to check in with readers to compare opinions after you’ve seen as many episodes as I did of a show when I first reviewed it, and “Catherine” was the last episode of Veep I saw for review.

Part of reviewing a new series—at least when you, ideally, get more than one episode to look at in advance—is assessing not just the episodes in themselves but their trajectory. I’ve seen too many shows with pilotitis, where a spectacular first episode fizzles out in subpar scripts or lower-budget production values in subsequent weeks. Better shows take a strong pilot—even a not-so-strong one—and build on it. Are the second and third episodes funnier (or more moving or thrilling, as may be the case) than the debut? Do the characters seem to be getting better developed, revealing more sides of themselves in a way that suggests the writers really know them as people? Do the follow-up episodes fall back on familiar setups and situations, or are they fresh and surprising?

Part of the reason I liked Girls as much as I did was that I was impressed by the pilot but the second and third episodes were even better. I finished three episodes of Veep liking the series but not loving it, partly because I didn’t think the second and third episodes built from the original.

On the plus side, though, I liked last night’s episode better than the second—with the stomach-flu slapstick and the expected the-President-may-be-dying storyline so soon—so I’m guardedly optimistic. I still find the pacing of the show and the dialogue a little too sitcommy, with exchanges that feel like they should have pauses for studio audience laughter. (“That Mark Rivera called me a diva in his column.” “Clearly he hasn’t heard you sing.” “I’ve selected a few candidates—or should I say canine-didates.” “No, you shouldn’t say that.”) Not that there’s anything wrong with studio-audience comedies, but it’s an uneasy fit here.

But I was very impressed with the way the third episode built comedy not just out of zingers but out of the considerations and manipulations of politics, not just the big stuff (the maneuvering with the oil industry), but—especially—the petty stuff, like the imagined “feud” with the First Lady, Selina sharing a name with a potential future hurricane and the way even Selina’s deciding to buy a dog conflicts with the plans to acquire a “First Dog, or FDOTUS.” And there’s nothing wrong with zingers when they’re sharp: “I’ve met some people, real people. And I’ve gotta tell you, a lot of them are fucking idiots.”

So after the show’s first three episodes, I don’t love Veep, but there’s enough in it to make me hope I might eventually. (It’s gotten a second-season order already, so there’s time for that.) Does it have your vote?