Veep: “Omaha” Season 6 Premiere Review

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Veep‘s transition into post-presidential life is messy, but points towards some exciting potential.

During her most recent Emmy acceptance speech, Julia Louis-Dreyfus joked that Veep started out as a satire, but, with the current political climate, it now resembles a sobering documentary. She isn’t wrong. Even the show’s most wonderfully ludicrous of plots can’t match the insanity of today’s headlines. Still, it seems like showrunner David Mandel may have planned for this. The spectacular season 5 ended with Selina losing the presidency altogether and reluctantly heading into civilian life. The premiere of season 6 peers into Selina’s new world, and it’s startlingly different from the Veep we’ve come to expect. The transition is far from seamless, but there looks to be some interesting narratives ahead.

“Omaha” opens a year after the House vote that booted Selina from the White House entirely, and it wastes no time in showing us exactly how that decision left her feeling. In an interview with CBS This Morning, Selina tells Dan—now a co-anchor of the show—how much “fun” the last year has been, but we can see through Dreyfus’ signature wide eyes and forced smile that it has been anything but. Indeed, the scenes following the interview show how radically Selina’s life has changed since her presidency ended. Everything, from her robust staff to her public agenda, has been downsized.

The premiere is a bit stifled by setup, which makes sense considering all of the new career moves the show has to come up with for its characters. The Meyer staff is all but disbanded. Amy is running her fiancé Buddy’s campaign, Ben is a very un-PC fish out of water working at Uber, Dan is—as I mentioned before—at CBS, and Mike is in stay-at-home parent hell. A lot of plot points are thrown out to get the season started, but they’re hampered by separation. Should we really care about Jonah surviving cancer and pretending that he still has it in order to get sympathy, when this seems miles away from Selina and her new foundation? The same can be said for Amy, who’s always fun to watch as she hurls off insults with rapidfire pacing, but who’s campaign efforts in Nevada seem totally disconnected from the rest of the show.

Such is the conundrum of this brand new Veep. The show worked so well for five seasons on maintaining tightly-wound chaos in Selina’s staff. It shined in its ensemble moments as characters rattled off offensive slurs at each other and scrambled to make each event in Selina’s presidency work at the last minute. Now, everyone’s on a different playing field, and the kinetic energy of the chaos is gone.

Still, there’s some hope to be found in “Omaha.” The main plot of the episode concerns Selina’s attempt to run for president again, which everyone agrees is a terrible idea. It doesn’t register with her until Ben says it straight to her face, but it makes for a compelling conflict nonetheless. What’s most interesting is how this plotline reveals how much Gary has changed since Selina left office. He’s still her right-hand man, but his reactions to her bad ideas are much less subdued. Gary is more comfortable with Selina now, and his blatant dislike of Dan and her ex-husband Andrew is on full display. Hopefully, this sort of openness will lead to another fantastic “East Wing”-esque confrontation.

Andrew, strangely enough, is where most of this season’s potential lies. It’s clear that his dealings with Selina’s new adult literacy foundation are shady, and will likely lead to some sort of public scandal. Selina’s new team consists of Gary (duh), Richard, Marjorie, and, by the end of the episode, Mike. It’s might not be the same as the Meyer staff during her presidency, but these characters work well together, especially when there’s trouble. Despite all of the arduous setup in this episode, I’m excited to see how things go horribly wrong.

Veep is in entirely new territory this season, and while the move from “sobering documentary,” as Dreyfus put it, to a post-presidential satire is jarring, I have hope that this show will get back on its feet in no time. If there’s one thing Selina Meyer and her team are good at, it’s finding a way to pull together after a disaster. Grade: B

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Clea Duvall got the line of the episode with her perfectly droll delivery of “I didn’t know you were going to give me AIDS.”
  • Also, the fact that Marjorie has taken to calling Selina “Mom” is amazing.
  • I love Richard a lot, but he’s at his best when he’s opposite Jonah. It’s a little weird that he decided to work for Selina instead, but I’m willing to give it a few more episodes to see where this goes. Sam Richardson is always a delight, so I’m hoping new conflicts will arise with Gary.
  • Sarah Sutherland once again dominated her screen time with her signature ugly sobs.
  • It’s also interesting how Catherine is essentially pulling the strings of Selina’s new operation since she’s in control of most of Selina’s finances.
  • Dan plan to get out of CBS This Morning backfires, but fight with Jonah is terrific.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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