Friday 23 March 2018

'Veep' returns to entertain and terrify

* Veep, Sky Atlantic
* What Are You Eating?, RTE One

Mrs President: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as POTUS Selina Myers
Mrs President: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as POTUS Selina Myers
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Well, The Donald has the Republican nomination in the bag and despite losing on a reliably consistent basis to Bernie Sanders in the Primaries, Hillary Clinton has long been appointed the anointed and she will lead the Democrats.

It's all shaping up for what will probably be the most terrifying American election any of us have ever witnessed.

Terrifying, yes. But let's be honest, it also promises to be completely freakin' hilarious.

You need a touch of gallows humour when dealing with politics at the best of times. This is not the best of times. Instead, it's a time of social and cultural collapse and we all have a ring side seat to the implosion of the West as we know it.

The greater the fear, the greater need for comedy and not since The Thick Of It (for obvious reasons) has a show like Veep managed to so mercilessly skewer the absurdity and almost pathological pettiness we have come to associate with politicians.

Most of us have some sort of weird interest in American politics, if only because it is, to employ the terminology of one of the candidates, so huuuge.

It impacts on all of us and even if you have no interest in either Clinton or Trump, they will still decide whether to pull the multinationals out of Ireland.

That's why The West Wing resonated with so many viewers who will never get to cast a vote. That idealistic drama provoked a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in viewers who desperately wanted to believe that the people in charge of the free world were flawed but idealistic and shared the rare ability to spout 500 words a minute of flawless repartee without missing a beat.

The massive success of House Of Cards, on the other hand, has been largely down to the growing cynicism about the Oval Office.

After all, if The West Wing projected an image of what now seems like almost childlike innocence, the Netflix smash portrays the Beltway as a seething mass of vipers, where even the nice characters should have been locked up in a maximum security facility somewhere.

Veep is somewhere in between.

The characters who would like to be inspirational are too venal to ever inspire anything other than derision, while the ones who would quite like to be evil and Machiavellian are simply too stupid to be efficiently evil. So, it has more Irish parallels than you might have expected.

Season five returned with a welcome double bill this week and it was quick to remind us that, in the real world just as in comedy, the thick usually rise to the top.

Having achieved the previously unthinkable and finally become President, Selina Myers (the great Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is facing all the usual hurdles a President has to deal with.

Not only is she now a contested President who has to endure a recount and lots of lectures about the electoral college (prepare yourself for something similar in the real world come November), she also has a pimple a 16-year-old boy would envy and a daughter who is such a whiny Millennial that even Lena Dunham would grab her by the shoulders and tell her to cop on.

But if her daughter is a pain she tries to avoid, her staff are the children she can never really escape.

As Myers fretted over whether her screamingly obvious 'Zitzilla' was partially responsible for the Dow Jones going into free fall, her staff were grappling with the usual weighty matters of state - such as competing to see who can walk the most steps in a day.

Armando Iannucci is no longer the showrunner, but you can see his fingerprints all over the script and the fact that these episodes were directed by Chris Addison (Olly from The Thick Of It) indicates that the previously high standard has been maintained.

The dialogue is similar to The West Wing - if the cast of The West Wing had all dropped some seriously strong acid.

When Mike, the utterly useless White House spokesman boasts that he is on a new diet called 'Master Cleanse', the ever irascible Washington insider Ben simply sneers: "Master Cleanse? That sounds like some Nazi domestic policy."

Yup, Veep is back and it's beginning to look more like horrifying documentary with each passing day. Let's put it this way, as absurd as the situations may have been, they have nothing on what we're going to witness over the next few months.

From things that are hard to swallow to things that are hard to stomach, Philip Boucher Hayes was, once again, giving the nation a whole new batch of neuroses about what they eat.

What Are You Eating? should be actually called 'What Are You Eating? Are You Mad?, such are the comestible horror stories we've been subjected to in recent weeks. Everything from sausages to sambos now hold the status of nightmares for many people who have tuned in to previous episodes.

While there have been some genuinely fascinating items (the one about how our genetic code dictates how we taste food was genuinely informative), this show has been mostly devoted to gross-out moments.

But his item on eating insects missed one factor - we're wired to reject food with insects, because that usually means the food has been spoiled.

Still, it wasn't the grossest thing he's put in his mouth this season.

Irish Independent

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