Before we launch into last night’s episode, allow me a minute to draw needless parallels between the two Washington-centric shows currently playing on television.
The first, of course, is HBO’s Veep, a show by British comedy writer Armando Iannucci that centers around a female Vice President (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who’s entertainingly inept, politically incoherent, and yet pretty foxy (if foul-mouthed). The second, ABC’s Scandal, is a show by Hollywood powerhouse Shonda Rhimes, and offers a gorgeous female crisis management professional (Kerry Washington) who’s sleeping with the President, as well as a female Vice President (Kate Burton) who’s a ruthlessly ambitious, bible-bashing social conservative. It’s worth noting that Burton is also in Veep—she plays the ruthlessly ambitious, Selina-terrifying Senator Barbara Hallowes, which presumably means they were short on tough-talking, ball-busting actresses this year.
Apart from location, these shows have precisely nothing in common. Veep is a satirical exposé of the ridiculousness of politics; Scandal is a ridiculous faux-political drama that imagines the President begging the Secret Service to let him escape from the goldfish bowl so that he can visit his mistress (who's pissed because he's also impregnated a White House intern). But neither paints a rosy picture of the ability of women to do their jobs with a modicum of professionalism. Scandal's Olivia Pope is continually undermined by her personal feelings for the president, to the extent where she loses her biggest asset: her gut instinct. To be fair to Iannucci, none of the characters in Veep are functioning professionals, which is why the show is so funny. But the fact that Selina is female--a Sarah Palin-esque joke who's the closest a woman has ever been to the Oval Office--still smarts a little. Thank God for Burton, who's gritty enough to let us believe she actually gets shit done in both shows. She might be a massive bitch, but at least she's efficient about it.
That said, last night's episode of Veep was actually fairly heart-rendering in its portrayal of an age-old dilemma for women: how to juggle career and family without sacrificing either. For Selina, who's trying to manage a clean jobs act, a media-orchestrated feud with the first lady (who supposedly calls her "Creepy Veepy"), and picking a dog breed that won't make her look like a diva, the arrival of her daughter is poorly timed, particularly since she's also celebrating her 20th year in Washington with a party at the Naval Observatory. Cue Catherine, her daughter, sitting around for hours while Selina deals with appointees to a clean jobs panel, culminating in a confrontation between the two in what looks like a broom cupboard. "Everything's always about you, Mom," says Catherine. "No!," says Selina, trying to look outraged while surrounded by roughly 200 images and cardboard cut-outs of her own face.
In other news, Selina's chosen appointee to her clean jobs panel manages to royally piss off two senators, one of whom, Senator Doyle, is somehow pacified when Dan reminds him that the choice could be a lot worse (if this actually worked as a negotiating tactic, we'd all have health care and high-speed trains). Jonah attempts to hit on various unlucky women but is hampered by a "cock-blocking widow." Mike's fake dog is finally revealed to Selina by her daughter (her staff apparently refers to it as the "bullshitzu"). And Amy manages to make nice to the meteorological people when the team discovers a hurricane next year is scheduled to be named "Selina," despite Catherine's objections ("You're not fucking Thor, Mom").
"I've met some people, real people, a lot of them. And I gotta tell you, a lot of them are fucking idiots." (Selina.)
"I imagine I would mix apeshit with batshit, raise it to a whole new level of rage, and then rip your face off and use it as a sex toy." (Senator Doyle.)
"Oh no, I did. I signed off with a colon followed by an open bracket." (Dan, when accused of dumping Senator Hallowes's daughter by text message without apologizing.)
"You guys, are we seriously going to let the guy with the face of a rapist tell us what to do?" (Amy, about Jonah.)
What did you think of last night's episode of Veep? Let us know in the comments.