"I'm the Vice President of the United States, you stupid little fuckers! These people should be begging me! That door should be half its height so people can only approach me in my office on their goddamn motherfucking knees!"
— Selina Meyer, VP
Veep is an HBO comedy/satire about the various dysfunctional people in the office of ineffectual Vice President of the United States Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine fame). Developed by Armando Iannucci, it is a long-awaited (five years!) American adaptation of The Thick of It and a Spiritual Successor to the American side of In the Loop. It keeps most of the biting satire of the originals, and although the swearing level is about the same, it would appear that American politicians and staffers prefer sarcasm to straight-up bollocking.Other members of the cast include Anna Chlumsky (Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer), Tony Hale (Gary Walsh, personal assistant to the VP), Matt Walsh (Mike McLintock, Director of Communications), Sufe Bradshaw (Sue Wilson, executive assistant to the Vice President), and Reid Scott (Dan Egan, Deputy Director of Communications).
This show provides examples of:
Alliterative List: In "Debate", Selina has a "three Rs" immigration policy: reform, reaffirm and renew. During the actual debate, she forgets the third R, so she comes up with "repel".
Hints of this between Amy and Dan - and Dan at least clearly thinks that's what's happening.
A much more overt example in Season 2 with Selina and her ex-husband Andrew. They clearly loathe each other, but can't stop bonking. In "Andrew", during a dinner they alternate between flirting and fighting in a matter of minutes.
Bestiality Is Depraved: Discussed just as Selina finds out that the President is sending her to a pork roast in North Carolina just as am important military briefing is happening on the same day.
Selina: So they want me to go to a pig roast to meet a bunch of men who probably took turns to fuck the pig before they roasted it? Amy: I wouldn't presume that they took turns.
Better Than Sex: Amy says this about finding proof of a rival politician's extramarital affair.
This feels better than actually having sex yourself!
When Selina becomes president, Dan says it feels better than most of the sex he's ever had.
Bloody Hilarious: Selina with her face sliced up after walking through a glass door in "Running". And later when she opens up one of the cuts or gets a nosebleed or something after finishing her "Get Moving" run.
Gary gets so excited and cries with joy that his nose starts to bleed heavily after learning from Selina that POTUS is resigning. Leads to a hilarious 3 minute Laughing Mad sequence between the two in the bathroom stall.
Gary: Everything you say to me is emasculating. Do you realize that?
Dan does this again in "Midterms". A data wonk of Indian ethnicity spurts out a lot of technical polling jargon, Dan asks for the data in English, the wonk says "Is that some kind of racist Indian joke?" and Dan says "Uh, yes."
The whole VP office holds Jonah in contempt...as, it seems, does everyone in the District.
Call Back: A hilarious one in "Clovis" to the season 2 episode "Hostages," specifically on word clouds (the prevalence and memorability of the word within its context corresponds to its size in the word cloud)note "Do people not use sentences anymore?".
Selina: You know what? Guys, I have to address this. This Danny Chung torture story. I know Governor Chung very well and I can tell you that these allegations are utterly unfounded. Utterly unfounded. If you are telling me that Danny Chung condones torture, I am telling you that those allegations are false. False. I mean, the words " Danny Chung" and " torture" they don't belong in the same sentence. They don't. " Danny Chung"? " Torture"? Come on.
Selina has even used this to get out of awkward conversations. From "Clovis," in which she is accosted by a young mother on flip-flopping over the issue of fracking.
Selina: I believe that children are the future and they deserve an energy policy (louder, to the rest of the crowd) that protects the world. The world in which there is a country called the United States of America! (Thunderous cheers)
Country Matters: In "D.C." an enraged Selina thinks that DC should be renamed the "District of Cunts".
Cringe Comedy: Large part of the humor comes from Selina publicly embarrassing herself.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Blake Stewart, the the uncharismatic former politician at Congressman Cowgill's funeral, was Selina's party's presidential nominee a decade ago and lost 49 states in the general election.
Disproportionate Retribution: In Season 1, one of Selina's Secret Service agents was caught twice laughing, and so Selina had him reassigned to the Arlington Memorial Cemetery. When the press get a hold of the story, they blow the story into Selina firing the Secret Service agent for smiling, made worse because Mike calls the agent out for "grinning like an ape." As a result, her approval ratings plummet. By "Tears," her disapproval rating was at 66%.
Selina getting some unpleasant news in "Baseball" when Gary whispers into her ear while she's in front of a class of schoolchildren is strongly reminiscent of George W. Bush getting the news on Sept. 11, 2001 from Andrew Card.
The meeting where senior administration personnel are huddled together to monitor the hostage rescue mission in "Hostages" is shot to look a lot like the famous photo of Obama Administration bigwigs crammed into a small room monitoring the mission to take out Osama bin Laden. The actual plot is reminiscent of the hikers who got arrested in Iran.
Selina having to redo the Presidential swearing-in after it's done incorrectly, just like Obama after his first inauguration.
Minna: Danteeksi, I think I should apologize in advance, because I think that this is going to be "The Neverending Sorry." (Minna and Selina laugh) Selina: As opposed to "Story." (More laughter)
Double Entendre: In "Chung", Selina engages in some extremely innuendo-laced conversation with her boyfriend, much to the disgust of her staff members who overhear it.
Deliberately and gleefully used by Ben to Mike when he learns that the latter's been trying IVF on the DL in "Fishing"
Ben: Hey, Mike, this salad doesn't have any dressing. Did you bring any extra dressing? I hear the next course is gonna be pulled pork. Pork that has been pulled.
Dumb Muscle: Ray, who is hired as Selina's personal fitness trainer and who she has an intense affair with. Despite his insistence otherwise, he really is as dumb as a brick.
Eagleland: Flavor 2. Catherine refuses to appear on radio shows that have eagle logos and call themselves the "voice of reason."
The Eeyore: Ben is always a downer, having been worn down by his time in politics, to the point that when everyone else is excited over the President resigning and Selina taking over, he merely says "This must be what it feels like to be happy" with the same tone and facial expression he always has.
Erotic Eating: Discussed in "Frozen Yoghurt," Selina is trying to wrangle Senator Doyle's support for a filibuster reform bill and jokingly refuses to be photographed eating a hotdog "or any other phallic foods" in their quid-pro-quo.
Establishing Character Moment: In the pilot, personal aide and willing slave Gary Walsh (played by Tony Hale) burns his hands holding VP Meyer's hot coffee cup while she has an idle conversation. He'll go on to do similar things in later episodes.
In "Hostages", when Jonah tells Selina about the Marine who lost a leg in the hostage operation, his tone is sincere and respectful, very different from his usual way of speaking.
When visiting the victims of a crane collapse in "Chung," Selina and her staff seem genuinely respectful and concerned. Mike even keeps the press at a respectful distance from a conversation between Selina and the bereaved parents of one of the victims, at least until it's established that their son is going to live. Also, in "Helsinki," the borderline sociopathic and amoral Dan seems genuinely horrified to learn that the Finnish Prime Minister's husband groped Selina.
The President, who ultimately resigns in order to better care for his ill wife.
Flipping the Bird: Dan to Amy at the end of "Full Disclosure" when Amy has won the VP's favor by claiming that she (Amy) is the one who needed the pregnancy test, then, in response to him needling her, implies in front of the press that he's infertile.
Fun with Acronyms: The real life government staffer inclination toward this is sometimes lampooned. Everyone called the president by the acronym "POTUS," pronounced "poh-tuss" and often call Selina "vee-poh-tuss." Jonah tends to go overboard with it, called the president's dog "FDOTUS," pronounced "eff-dotus," for the First Dog of the United States. He also makes up initialisms on the fly, such as "VPVP," standing for "vice-president visual presence."
The Ghost: The President. Much like the PM in The Thick of It, it's confirmed he'll never be seen; for three seasons, he didn't even have a name. In third-season episode "New Hampshire", it's finally revealed to be Stuart Hughes... as he resigns.
Hypocrite: The CEO of the Facebook-type Silicon Valley startup Craigg (CRAY-g) Juergensen claims that he doesn't follow politics, but then asks Selina about dropping repatriation taxes because they "stop so much innovation"
Hypocritical Humor: In "Catherine" Selina says, "I know not everything is about me," to her daughter—while hiding in a closet filled with pictures, posters, and cardboard cutouts of herself. (In fairness, the stuff is campaign leftovers.)
If I Had a Nickel: Danny Chung constantly brings up his war record. In "D.C.", Dan gets tired of it and tells him: "If I had a dollar for every time you mention the goddamn war, I would buy a tank and I would blow your fat fucking head off."
Dan gets one while he is in Helsinki from the press: "Danteeksi."note "Anteeksi" means "I'm sorry" and then they added "D" to make "Danteeksi"
Incredibly Lame Pun: Mike is a master of this. Gems include "Now that's one Speakernote referring to the new Speaker of the House I'd like to put on mute!"
Informed Ability: Selina was a powerful Senator and had enough clout to make a serious run at the presidency, but her skill at diplomacy is kept largely off-camera. The show focuses instead on her many catastrophes and meltdowns.
I Take Offense to That Last One: While playing devil's advocate, Dan predicts that Selina's policy will destroy America, capping it off by saying that she'll become so infamous that no one will ever name their child Selina again. After a stunned moment of silence, Gary says, "My God... no more Selinas?" He's immediately shushed.
Kick the Son of a Bitch: After Dan suffers a nervous breakdown, ends up in a hospital and loses his job as a campaign manager, Jonah visits him only to cruelly mock him. However, Dan is such a massive jerk that it's hard to feel sorry for him.
Kicked Upstairs: Vice President Meyer used to be a U.S. Senator of some influence. Now she struggles to get anyone to pay attention to her. Louis-Dreyfus notes in interviews that no one dreams of being the vice-president. From the pilot:
Selina: What am I missing these days?
A Senator: Power.
Also this gem of a quote from "Fishing":
Selina: I'd rather be shot in the fucking face than serve as vice president again! Seriously! In the fucking face!
"Hostages" has an unusually dramatic ending as Selina learns a marine lost his leg, in an operation she insisted be moved up to before his rotation ended.
"Helsinki" abruptly turns serious as Selina is groped by the Prime Minister's husband and is traumatized afterwards, then goes right back to being funny.
"Special Relationship." The hilarity of Selina's Humiliation Conga at the press conference in the United Kingdom in which she is torn apart by the British press comes to an end when Kent informs Selina that FLOTUS attempted suicide back in DC.
Selina: Makes you put your own problems in perspective.
Selina Meyer draws several parallels to Hillary Rodham Clinton, but also to Al Gore (a policy wonk relegated to VP status by a failed presidential run), Joe Biden (former Senator from a Mid-Atlantic state with a tendency toward making, ah, awkwardstatements), and Sarah Palin (a politician criticized for "diva-like" behavior).
The anti-immigration Senator from Arizona is remarkably similar to (a caricature of) Jon Kyl for someone who looks nothing like Jon Kyl.
No Name Given: The President, again. He's usually referred as POTUS. At the end of season 3, his name is revealed to be Stuart Hughes.
No Party Given: Louis-Dreyfus has stated that the show will never reveal Meyer's political party. However, the issues she stands for, and her staff, seem to be vaguely liberal, suggesting that she's a Democrat:
Her big push in Season One is "clean jobs," and she's reluctant to make a deal with anti-immigration politicians as a compromise.
She's from Maryland, a state that hasn't had a Republican Senator since 1986.
In "Full Disclosure," an unflattering viral video says that she considers herself an environmentalist, and Fox News (overtly Republican) jumps on the embarrassing Secret Service story.
The line from from Selina's stump speech in "Midterms"—"freedom is 'we'-dom, not 'me'-dom"—is strongly reminiscent of Democratic rhetoric.
In 'Debate' Selina's impromptu 'repel' speech on immigration horrifies her staff, who refer to it as being right-wing.
Noodle Incident: There is... something... in Selina's garbage, something disturbing enough that Gary and Jonah have to go retrieve it when a private contractor takes away the garbage in "Shutdown".
Not Hyperbole: Several members of Selina's staff, upon being told that she's walked through a glass door, think that it's a metaphor for something. It's not.
One Head Taller: Jonah is often mocked for his height, though when the similarly tall Allison Janney guest stars it's pretty fun to see them both getting to talk with someone on their own eye level.
Selina: Sue, you are incredibly valued here and I was wondering if there was anything we could do to make you wanna stay with us. Sue: More money, ma'am. Selina: I'm on it. Welcome back. Sue: Honor to serve.
Open Secret: "Detroit", Selina secretly reveals to Amy that she's sleeping with her personal trainer, Ray. Amy soon finds out that every member of the staff knows this already, except Mike.
Parental Neglect: Selina pays more attention to her political career than to her daughter, Catherine. Catherine's favorite family vacation was the time the housekeeper took her to Disneyland with her family. In "Alicia", Catherine outright tells her mother that she had a "hard, lonely, miserable life".
Gary: What the FUCK is wrong with you, Brett? THIS IS NOT A BIG PLACE, THIS IS NOT A BIG PLACE!
Publisher-Chosen Title: In-Universe, Selina's publisher gave her a pick of titles for her pre-campaign memoir. She settled on the bland Some New Beginnings: Our Next American Journey. The other choices were the equally vanilla Footsteps to the Future; Red, White, and You; and Hands of Our Childrennote Selina:"It's like a massacre or something!"Ben:"That is sick.".
"Go period fuck period yourself exclamation point."
Purple Prose: The speech that Mike wrote for Selina to deliver at the War Memorial Ceremony is chock-full of this. Selina decides to go with Ray's idea of dumbing it down to appeal to blue-collar workers.
Retirony: In "Hostages", a marine loses a leg on a rescue operation. Unfortunately for him, he was scheduled to be rotated out a few days later. Selina had a choice between two dates for the mission, but chose the earlier one to upstage Sue. Had she chosen the other one, he would have not taken part in the operation.
Ripped from the Headlines: Season 2 went down this way, with plotlines inspired by the 2010 midterm elections, the Osama Bin Laden raid/Iranian student hostage crisis, the fiscal cliff negotiations and the government shutdown.
In Season 1, one of the interns in Selina's office pulls a piece about Governor Danny Chung not "being an American" when he was born when tasked to research Governor Chung, which was almost exactly like the birther conspiracy surrounding Barack Obama around the time he was elected.
The "Get Moving" campaign to combat obesity that Selina spearheads on the recommendation of POTUS is almost exactly like the "Let's Move" campaign (to combat childhood obesity) spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Selina's blunder in "Debate" (see Alliterative List above) was inspired by Rick Perry's infamous "Oops!" gaffe after he forgot one of his talking points during a 2012 Republican presidential debate.
The Rival: In Season 1, Selina sees veteran and Governor of Minnesota Danny Chung as this to her position as Vice President. In season 3, her biggest rivals to become the party presidential nominee are Governor Chung, former Sec. Def. George Maddox, and ex-MLB manager Joe Thornhill.
Running Gag: In Season 1, Selina constantly asks whether the President has called. He never does.
In second season premiere "Midterms", the President finally calls, and gives Selina a new role in foreign policy after she was judged to be an asset in the midterm elections. The gag was since dropped.
In the season 3, there was a Call Back in the form of a throwaway gag about how the President won't stop calling, followed by Selina being asked to call someone when she becomes the president.
Amy's bland boyfriend Ed has three times been in the room for important announcements he shouldn't have heard, just because everyone forgets he was there.
Satire: Well, obviously. Unlike The Thick of It, however, Veep leans to the Juvenalian very slightly, with dips into Horatian territory. The biggest reason is probably the absence of a Malcolm-type character; instead of the dictates from Upstairs coming in the mouth of a violent Glaswegian spin-doctor, they come from the saddest schmuck in the District.
Scandalgate: Selina's speech gaffe is called "retardgate".
Scully Box: Used in-universe: Gary has a folding stepping stool in his bag for Selina to use during speeches when the lectern is too tall. This is understandable, given that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is 5'3".
In Season 3, when Selina is campaigning for the nomination, she gets a crate—reinforced with titanium, costing $1200. The reveal that Selina is standing on a $1200 crate causes her some embarrassment.
Separated by a Common Language: Some of this leads to a misunderstanding where "Daniwah!" becomes an In-UniverseMemetic Mutationnote When she visits a London pub for publicity, she pours a pint to drink and the bartender cheers her with a "Down in one!" which Selina mishears as "DANIWAH," to the amusement of the press.
Amy: They're laughing at her like a toddler they taught to swear!
Sex with the Ex: Selina has casual sex with her ex-husband in season 2 and 3.
The Sociopath: The show is giving less-subtle hints that Dan seems to be of the high-functioning variety. The fact that he revealed that he killed a stray dog as a child to win a dare is leaving little room for doubt.
Soft Glass: Soft enough to walk through, not soft enough to not cut your face all to hell. ("Running").
Spanner in the Works: Despite the machinations of Selina and her team, the President always manages to throw a monkey wrench into their plans. From pulling his support for filibuster reform and the clean jobs initiative, to quashing the debt ceiling budget deal that Selina successfully negotiates, to the sudden pro-life stance, really the only good things that the President has done for Selina were to first announce his intention not to run for reelection, and then ultimately stepping down as president.
Speak Ill of the Dead: In "Detroit", when Selina is told that journalist Emily LaFuente was killed in a shooting, her immediate reaction is: "Emily LaFuente died? She was a vicious bitch and a fucking drunk."
The beginning of the first season mentions the death of Senator Reeves, who Senator Hallowes calls "Rapey Reeves," and whose memorial service Selina attends in "Catherine." Selina recalls their first meeting where he fondled her left breast.
Spiritual Successor: The show is a spiritual successor to The Thick of It and In the Loop. Several characters in Veep are very similar to the American characters from In the Loop, and a number of actors in In the Loop appear in Veep.
In "Frozen Yoghurt" when she finally arrives several hours late at the yoghurt shop she had planned on visiting as part of come goodwill promotion.
Selina: Do you have any Jamaican rum?
Shopowner: I'm sorry, I don't. And I've also thrown out all the "Strawberry Selina." It had a bad taste.
In "Hostages," when she and Secretary of Defense Maddox are trading barbs and dancing around the topic of the hostage rescue.
Selina: I know what I'm doing, George.
Sec. Def. Maddox: With this hostage situation? I don't think you have the intelligence. (Beat). As in the intel.
In "Special Relationship," when she visits a London pub in order to boost her ratings among blue-collar workers.
Selina: What am I having? What would you recommend that I have at this lovely place?
Deputy PM: How about a nice Pinot Noir?
Selina: Oh, that sounds lovely-
Deputy PM: No, I'm joking, that's a - you won't - um. I think you look like a bitter person. (Beat) Which is a type of beer.
Story Arc: The "clean jobs" bill in season 1; the hostage crisis and the resulting scandal in season 2; Selina running for President in season 3.
Swivel-Chair Antics: A scene in the first season has Selina idly spinning in her chair. It was used in commercials.
The Tag: Scenes at the end of every episode continue well into the credits.
Tagline: For the first season, it's "The buck stops somewhere near here." The second season has "Diplomacy in action." The third season has "Boldly running for president. Proudly standing for everything."
Taking the Bullet: Discussed Trope in "Frozen Yoghurt". Dan challenges Gary on whether he'd take a bullet for Selina. Later in the episode, which centered on a flu virus spreading around Washington, Gary takes a sneeze for Selina, stepping in the way of a man who has the flu. Selina still gets it, probably from Gary.
Speaker of the House: Amy, now am I getting older, or are you getting younger?
Amy: We're both getting older.
Speaker: That's th-the third option. That's great stuff.
In "The Choice"
Dan: That's right, and as Vice President, here's your choice. Two doors: pro-choice, pro-life. That's it. Selina:Is there a third door? Amy: What, like a women's door? Dan: A back door? No. Gary: A trap door. (Everyone turns to look at him funny)
The Vice Presidency is an office with no official duties other than presiding over the Senate and casting tie-breaking Senate votes, and is notorious as a graveyard for political influence.
However, the show has attracted some criticism for playing on the old sterotype of the Vice President being powerless and ignored, since every VP since Mondale, with the possible exception of Dan Quayle, has been in the President's inner circle.
Twitchy Eye: In "Debate", Selina gets a twitchy eye before the first debate between the presidential candidates. It ends up working to her advantage; when an audience member asks a question from one of her main rivals, George Maddox, he's distracted by Selina's eye and gives a very embarrassing answer.
Vice President Who: The Series, as Meyer is ignored by the administration, mocked by the media, forced to make goodwill visits to yogurt shops, etc.
Wham Line: In "Crate". Ma'am, you're about to become the 45th president.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Selina seems to have a fear of missing limbs; she tells her staff not to pick a dog with a missing leg in "Catherine", and is extremely shaken by the thought of a Marine who lost his leg in "Hostages".
World of Snark Selina, Dan, Amy, Mike, Kent, Ben, Sue... pretty much everyone is a snarker in the show, except Gary and Jonah (and even he has a few moments).
World's Smallest Violin: Dan inverts this in "D.C." when he plays "the world's largest cello" after having heard one too many of Chung's stories about the war.
You Just Told Me: How Dan gets Jonah to admit that he (Jonah) is the "westwingman.net" blogger.