The genius behind Veep was always that it presented a version of American politics very obviously rooted in real-world anecdotes, but spun so ridiculous that viewers thanked their lucky stars they did not live in a country governed by the craven, bumbling President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her band of woefully inept flunkies and advisers.
And then an actual presidential election started up, and life seemed to become a less-pleasant imitation of HBO’s five-year-old comedy. Then Armando Iannucci—whose vicious Scottish wit and gift for truly vile insult comedy made him the sharpest television writer to ever channel US politics—announced he was quitting the show.
Between an campaign cycle seemingly pulled from a Hollywood sketchbook and a change at the top of the credits, Veep fans had reason to be nervous. How, possibly, could this show compete with Donald Trump?
But in the shards of our busted Overton window, Veep is as on-point as ever. The Meyer Administration, stuck in an Electoral College tie as it seeks its first full term, is as recklessly incapable of doing the nation’s business as ever, and the president’s staff bringing its nincompoopery in full force. As Tony Hale, who plays Selina’s eternally lamblike assistant Gary, told Washingtonian last week, the series, now overseen by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm veteran David Mandel, is managing to out-crazy reality. There’s no Donald Trump analog or crotchety socialist needed in the mix, because Veep is just as intoxicatingly absurd as ever.
Still, here are six things that happened in the season opener, “Morning After,” that will remind everyone how hauntingly close the Veep universe is to our own:
Everyone needs a fall guy: Blurred by last-season’s tied election was a scandal created when the White House engaged in illegal lobbying on behalf of one of Selina’s legislative initiatives. It was decided that strategist Bill Erickson (Diedrich Bader)—smarmy toward all, loved by none—would take the fall, and the season opens with him getting tossed under that proverbial bus, then having the bus go in reverse and squish him for good measure. Somewhere out there, the ghost of John Mitchell commiserates
Sad bench lunch: You can’t have a sad desk lunch if you don’t have a desk to eat and cry at, as Dan (Reid Scott) discovers when he gets fired from his TV commentator job (by 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit, no less!). Still, who among us hasn’t indulged the lonely urge to eat a processed chain sandwich while sitting on a park bench and staring into the abyss, waiting for that next job offer to call?
Fitbit dorks: You know how your office has a bunch of dudes who wear a Fitbit or other fitness-tracking device, won’t shut up about it for a few weeks, and then eventually start forgetting to charge it at night so they wind up wearing zombie Fitbits that do nothing? That’s Press Secretary Mike’s (Matt Walsh) new jam, so he can get in “dad shape” for the Chinese baby he and his wife are adopting. Obviously he’s halfassing it by not climbing any staircases like Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), who remains ten paces ahead of everyone else. (Editor’s note: The author of this recap is one of those Fitbit dorks.)
Nev-AD-a/Nev-AH-da: No joke, this is a real thing people from Nevada correct if you pronounce the name of their state the latter way. It’s only pointed it in two places: Nevada and functions in Washington where members of the Nevada congressional delegation are present. A state assemblyman from Las Vegas once even introduced a bill that would make it socially acceptable to pronounce Nevada with an “ah” sound that, frankly, seems more natural. Kent (Gary Cole) is just doing the politically astute thing.
Privileged panels: In a pinch, Selina’s staff convenes a summit on race relations that winds up with an all-white keynote panel. Just like Fox News did in 2014. Or kind of like PayPal is doing literally this week when it convenes a panel of five male executives tackling gender equality in the workplace.
The fall and rise and fall of Jonah Ryan: No great Jonah (Timothy Simons) insults this week. His demotion to be the assistant to his former underling Richard (Sam Richardson) may be “weapons-grade bullshit” to him, but undoubtedly good for everyone else. Still, by the end Jonah has somehow scrounged up a new flunky, Cliff (Andy Milder). This guy bounces back faster than Jon Snow.