Right now, I’m guessing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs a hug.
Kidding. Who would even say that in Canada? Such is the state of national indignation that a dozen people probably abandoned reading this column after seeing the first sentence and have already sent e-mails expressing righteous fury. The other two have written to Jody Wilson-Raybould to point out, again, what she’s up against.
There’s no hugging going on in political circles in Ottawa. There’s cackling, swearing, rude jokes, snark and derisively grim humour galore.
Politics is like that: Brutal, cynical, grasping and full of self-dramatizing people who would sell their souls to gain the right endorsement to get re-elected. And the glory of Veep (Crave/HBO, Sundays, 10:30 p.m. ET) is that all that crassness and cynicism is right there, delivered as blistering humour.
It’s splendidly cathartic, this kind of vicious satire. Do we ever need it now.
In its seventh and final season, Veep is currently the best and most relevant comedy on TV. And that applies to both the United States and Canada. It’s an election year here, and in the United States approximately 124 Democrats have announced they are running for president in 2020.
That is what Veep is about right now – running for election. Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as cannily adept as ever at raucous verbal humour) has decided she’s running for office again and is campaigning in Iowa with her team. I’ll give you one line from Sunday’s upcoming episode. It’s suggested to Selina that it’s time for an all-female ticket. Selina scoffs: “The American people work hard for a living. They don’t need that kind of BS!”
While Selina tries to curry favour with a flaky tech billionaire in order to get his money and endorsement, former White House junior staffer Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) is running his campaign in New Hampshire with all the graceless, clueless obnoxiousness he can muster. Jonah actually wants a #MeToo scandal to break so that voters will associate him with “hot” women. Certain women then engage lawyers to make it clear they only had lunch with him once, and it wasn’t a date.
Yes, Veep has sport with everything, from #MeToo to race to abortion. It is stunningly rude and it’s a relief to find that on TV right now. Selina might, on one level, be adorable. But, in truth she isn’t. She is addicted to political power and will do anything – like a junkie – to hold on to that power. Like all the people around her, she doesn’t care about policy or good governance. She cares about winning and being in power.
Veep takes the view that the United States that Selina wants to run is a dumpster fire of lies, rage and aggression. Everyone is delusional about their grievances and entitlements. There isn’t a single reference to Donald Trump in this fictional political universe and there doesn’t need to be any connection to him. The country the show portrays is easily recognizable as the one that elected him, and is capable of electing a boasting, boorish oaf such as Jonah Ryan. (Simons has said he based some of Jonah’s mannerisms on Ted Cruz.) What makes it all truly cathartic is that you realize it’s hilarious while simultaneously being terrifying.
There is a hallucinatory quality to the times we live in: The Brexit shambles, the falsehoods that spew out of the U.S. President’s mouth daily, and now, locally, the tragedy-as-farce war of indignations that the SNC-Lavalin affair has wrought.
Satire is beggared by it all. But Veep comes closest to capturing the low-down and dirty impulses that are at the root of most things in politics. And one could see a version of the entire SNC-Lavalin affair as a two-episode storyline on Veep. The players revealed for their play acting, posturing and sulking. And all the while, the audience watching in a state of laughing, reckless despair that is, actually, quite healthy.
Nobody would get a hug on Veep. That’s more a Canadian thing: “Come on people, hug it out!” Kidding. Sorry.
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