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VEEP: The Complete Third Season

HBO // Unrated // March 31, 2015
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Several months after learning that the President would not be running for re-election, Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is in Iowa, signing copies of "her" awkwardly-titled book, trying to keep her sanity while she sits on her plans to run for President. The wheels begin turning suddenly when Secretary of Defense General Maddox (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) announces his resignation, suggesting that the President's announcement he will not be running for re-election is imminent. In Selina's crew, Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) and Deputy Communications Director Dan Egan (Reid Scott) launch into a personal battle over the chance to be Selina's campaign manager, while Communications Director Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) is more focused on his marriage to Wendy Keegan (Kathy Najimy), a DC reporter, and Selina's personal aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) deals with the toll that carrying around Selina's bag of tricks is taking on his body.

I hate to admit it, but "Veep" is a show that I want to like more than I actually like. As a huge fan of Armando Iannucci's In the Loop and its predecessor, "The Thick of It", the idea of seeing Iannucci work with such a talented cast of improvisers and comic minds was very appealing. To be fair, it'd be wrong to expect "Veep" to be nothing but a remake of the other show, and "Veep" definitely has its moments, but the comedic dynamics of the show are less satisfying. Perhaps it's the contradiction of the Meyer character, who often seems to occupy both the Malcolm Tucker and hapless politician roles simultaneously, or maybe it's the more cyclical, repetitive nature of American politics, but somehow "Veep" never cuts quite as deep with its comic wit.

In Season Three's favor are the continuing development of new characters around Selina, namely Kevin Dunn's Ben Cafferty, the President's White House Chief of Staff, and Gary Cole's Kent Davison, the Senior Strategist to the President. Dunn and Cole both have a certain relaxed groove to their performances that makes the profane and ridiculous dialogue funnier, with Dunn getting in some of the season's best lines. Cole, meanwhile, has an entertainingly angry flirtation going on with Selina's no-nonsense secretary Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), which manages to have its ups and downs despite not appearing to go anywhere. Christopher Meloni has a recurring role as a dim-witted masseuse (or masseur) that Selina falls into bed with, and Darren Boyd pops up as a delightfully dry British politician when Selina and the gang visits London (some may recognize him from the Iannucci-penned Alan Partridge movie).

Part of the dissatisfaction with the show stems from a single character, Dan. Not to pile on Reid Scott, but his character's schtick gets old in a hurry every season, with the role's glad-handling, all-talk-no-soul vibe actually affecting the viewing experience. Although it's clear the lines are funny on paper, they never quite have the snap one hopes in Scott's delivery because he still seems like a huckster. A big chunk of Season Three is devoted to his slow mental breakdown, which is kind of interesting, but it also means more time with the weakest link in the ensemble. More satisfying are the ridiculous ups and downs of Timothy Simons as White House liason to the President's Office, who gets canned when he's outed as the guy running a blog that accidentally outs the President's plans not to run again for a second term. He spends the rest of the season bouncing around, trying his hand at internet journalism and sucking up to family members before hitting rock bottom. His desperation is far funnier than Dan's self-confidence.

Highlight episodes include a visit to a Google analog called Clovis, where the group is led around by a strangely robotic assistant (Mary Grill in one of the funniest performances of the season) for hours waiting for the company's genius wunderkind CEO Craig Jergensen (Tim Baltz), who presents Selina with his new invention, the Smarch (a smartphone and watch combined), and a Vice Presidential debate in which Selina faces off against her Presidential competitors Maddox, former baseball coach Joe Thornhill (Glenn Wrage), former military man Danny Chung (Randall Park), and nervous Nellie Owen Pierce (Paul Fitzgerald). Not only does the debate pack a laundry list of genius one-liners from the characters watching, it also has some of the more compelling political ups-and-downs of the season, where the fate of Meyer's campaign rests on a single word.

"Veep": The Complete Third Season arrives in a transparent eco-friendly Amaray case (less plastic, no holes), with an image of Selina Meyer and crew aboard a boat in a riff on Washington crossing the Delaware. On the reverse of the sleeve, showing through the inside front cover, are some episode details, and the two-disc set slides into a glossy slipcover with identical imagery.

The Video and Audio
HBO's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio are both very strong in this standard-definition presentation. The picture is crisp and colorful, with plenty of detail and no signs of compression artifacts or banding. There's very little going on in the show aurally that actually require the full 5.1 soundtrack -- most of the show is dialogue-based -- but the additional depth does give group scenes a little bit of room to breathe. A French 5.1 track, Spanish 2.0 track, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai subtitles are also included.

The Extras
After managing to record 12 commentaries for the first season's eight episodes, the second season reigned things in with only four tracks, and this third season follows suit. All four audio commentaries appear on the second disc, on the last four episodes of the season, and each one features Julia Louis-Dreyfus and members of either the crew or the writing staff. Although these commentaries are interesting, they're arguably less funny than one might expect, and it's a bit disappointing that series creator Armando Iannucci doesn't appear on any of them.

The primary video extra is a series of deleted scenes (18:18), which cover every episode except the finale, and consist mostly of extremely short narrative bits rather than jokes, although there are a couple of funny one-liners in the mix. There is also one unadvertised snippet, in which real-life governor Martin O'Malley visits the set (2:56).

"Veep" may not be the show I wished it would be, but it is also a good show. Season 3 is no better or worse than the seasons that came before it, and it does pack some compelling plot punches for the show to pick up in the new season. This DVD edition is fairly no-frills, but for fans of the show, it's also a no-brainer. Recommended.

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