It took me three seasons to get into ‘Veep’. Actually, it took me until the second episode of season 3 to get into ‘Veep’ – an episode called ‘The Choice’. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the show before that episode. I laughed at some bits, cringed at others and continued to watch it because I wanted to see where Selina Meyers was going to get. It was okay. It wasn’t great, I wouldn’t have recommended it to anyone because (in my opinion) it was like background television. The kind of thing you put on when you’re doing the ironing or painting your nails. You could laugh along without really paying that much attention. It didn’t demand too much and it didn’t expect anything of you.
Then I watched ‘The Choice’ and suddenly, ‘Veep’ has come crashing into my top ten comedy series of all time.
Amando Ianucci, creator of ‘Veep’, is kind of a big deal in the U.K. Not only did he write and produce the hilarious and cringe-worthy ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge’ and the follow up series, ‘I’m Alan Partridge’, he is also the mind behind arguably the best British comedy show ever. You know which one I mean. He’s the mind behind the foul-mouthed genius that is Malcolm Tucker and showcasing the utter failings of the inner Government cabinet. ‘The Thick of It’ is one of the greatest shows to ever grace U.K. television (my love for it will probably have a post all to itself, one day) and when I first began watching ‘Veep’, I felt that Ianucci was trying to recreate his magic in America. Of course, he tried this in ‘In The Loop’, and I just don’t think that the British sarcastic, filthy humour translated very well to American television. So, I was skeptical of ‘Veep’. Throughout the first series, I felt it was just a not-so-good rip off of ‘The Thick of It’ with less swearing and more useless characters.
‘The Choice’ changed my mind completely. Better known as ‘the abortion episode’, Selina is faced with a tough decision and has to take a stance on abortion, after POTUS slips up at a dinner party and outs himself as pro-life. The abortion issue is a huge divider in US politics (completely unlike the UK) and this is the first time that Selina has to face up to what she actually thinks about the subject. Conveniently, she ‘wrote’ a piece about abortion in her book, ‘Some New Beginnings – The Next American Journey’. Unfortunately, what she ‘wrote’ was neither decisive nor useful in any way. In fact it was a complete fluff piece, designed to appease the general public.
I think my absolute favourite line in this episode is Selina’ aggressively explaining why she cannot discuss this point ‘as a woman…’ Mike and Dan want Selina to start the conversation on abortion rights by taking advantage of her position as a woman, but as Selina points out – “I can’t let people know I’m a woman!” It’s hands down one of the funniest lines in the show to date. Without analysing it too much (you’re all clever people, you understand the connotations), the line basically embodies all of the ridiculous things female-presenting people have to do on a daily basis to ensure they are taken seriously… aka distance yourself as far as you can away from ‘being a woman’. Selina knows that she can’t draw attention to the fact she is a woman running: a woman with a small amount of power at that. I think the line touched me so much because it’s a hilarious and deeply depressing reality that all women live in. It comes from the same place as the whole, ‘no, no, I’m not like other women’ rhetoric. It’s painfully true. Ianucci wastes no time on dwelling on this and as ‘Veep’ tends to do, they move swiftly on to where exactly Selina is going to stand on the issue.
There are other great reasons why the show seems to come together in this episode. Witty remarks are slung around between Amy, Dan, Gary and Jonah – the four of them come together so completely as an ensemble for (what I feel like) is the first time. Instead of being part of this homogenous group which only exists to collectively do Selina’s bidding/dirty work, we can see their individual characters and actually, they have desires beyond Selina. Take Gary, for example. Gary (played by the fantastic Tony Hale), who is possibly the most pitied character on television, finally realises that he does not want to carry Selina’s bags forever. Oh Gary. Dan and Amy are at each other’s necks, as always, and Mike is out on his honeymoon for the entirety of the episode. It’s great to see useless Mike in a role where he is capable – being a father figure to Kathy’s children and generally having a good time (and a lot of sex apparently). The thing about the ‘Veep’ gang is that they are all, generally, pretty horrendous people and will not stop at anything to ensure that their career stays intact. Mike and Gary are the only ‘nice’ characters – although we still have a certain amount of disdain for them simply because they are so completely useless and spineless. So it’s kind of cool to Mike doing something well for a change, and it’s also great to see how the group functions without him.
I think the defining element of ‘The Choice’ is the way the abortion topic is handled. There’s a moment of panic when you realise that this whole episode is going to be centered around abortion rights (and a bit about Kent hitting on Sue and Jonah being a dick) and you get a bit scared that it’s going to be awful. I mean, so many shows have messed that topic up entirely. They don’t understand that we need to be poking fun at our Governments for attempting to meddle in the uteruses of women and to the entire debate – because it shouldn’t even be a debate. ‘Veep’ tackles it head on and manages to keep it funny throughout whilst also making some pretty important points.
The only person who should decide if a woman can have an abortion is the woman herself. So, as far as Selina or Chung or any of the other politicians go – it really doesn’t matter what they think. And that, is the point. Or at least, it shouldn’t matter. The way in which they discuss abortion, as a tool to sway voters in an upcoming election is almost completely accurate to the way in which politicians think about these issues. It’s not a case of whether they truly believe abortion (or the death penalty, or gay marriage or any topical issue) is morally right, it’s a case of choosing the correct number (between 1 and 24) to ensure that they keep both republicans and democrats happy. It’s so true that it’s hilarious. And also sad. But isn’t that the point?
Sidenote: I really want to get a t-shirt with ‘Get the Government out of my fucking snatch” on it. Christmas pressie ideas, people.