May 25th, 2012
My first thought upon hearing that Armando Iannucci was making a Thick of It-esque show for America was YES! Awesome! Because I love The Thick of It and, even though I’m from there and thus know what it’s like, I love America.
My second thought, of course, was how are they going to fit in all the swearing? There aren’t going to be any “we’ve negotiated for 100 ‘fuck’s per episode” type rules on that side of the pond. Even if it is HBO. The BBC has people on the Today programme say “cock-up” like it’s official government terminology. I don’t think America can compete with that.
Of course this is not the only thing different about America. Here’s how the Veep travels:
Police cars and police motorcycles, sirens blaring, lights flashing, a row of big black bulletproof versions of the strangely bulbous American SUVs that everybody drives. We’re clearly not in the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship any more!
And yet when looking for a similar haven of bureaucratic uselessness, when tiny things are magnified by the lack of any important things nearby, you don’t have to make up DoSAC or Yes Minister‘s Department of Administrative Affairs. Look, here’s a man is dressing up in a woman’s coat in which he can conceal the incorrectly-signed condolence card for the widow of “one of the Senate’s biggest perverts” that he has to steal back before it is revealed that the Veep couldn’t be bothered to sign the card.
The job of Vice President of the United States of America is famously “not worth a bucket of warm piss” according to one man who held the job, John Nance Garner. Garner’s full of good quotes on the subject: who said becoming VP was “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made,” that the job was “almost wholly unimportant” and “a no man’s land somewhere between the legislative and executive branch.”
The essential uselessness of the vice-presidency started in the Constitution, which only mentions two things for the Veep to do: take over if the President dies, resigns or is incapacitated, and be the leader of the Senate, presiding over day-to-day business and casting a tie-breaking vote when needed. In practice the Vice President doesn’t have a lot to do with the Senate any more, instead performing important but mundane ceremonial duties, deflecting criticism away from the President, and usually having some worthy but boring issues that they are allowed to crusade upon.
This first episode of Veep opens with just such a radical campaign: replacing plastic cutlery with cornstarch.
What’s so radical about that? As a senator who’s “in” with the plastics lobby tells the Veep, “Honey, what is Plastics made of? You piss off Plastics, you piss off Oil, and you do not want to fuck with those guys because they fuck in a very unpleasant fashion.” You can’t make American political drama without the L-word: lobbying. A pro-cornstarch tweet gets someone fired from the Veep’s office. The banality of government abounds.
Sadly but unsurprisingly there’s no one like Malcolm Tucker this time (because there’s no one like Alistair Campbell in American politics). As far as I can tell so far, Tucker’s closest analogue in this show is Jonah.
Jonah works at the White House — and you can tell he needs a slap because he takes explicit delight in saying this — so is often the bearer of bad news to the Veep’s office. (One of the ways he’s most like Tucker is that sightings of him by the show’s main protagonists are greeted with the same dread and brace-for-impact agitation that hails an impending Malcolm Tucker.) He’s unpopular because of the huge power imbalance between the President and Vice President and the necessity of everyone to pretend that this imbalance doesn’t exist.
Jonah replies to “Don’t tell me what to do, Doogie fucking Howser.” with “I don’t know what that means!”
Yes, people, we’ve reached the terrifying era where we can no longer insult young people by calling them Doogie Howser because they’re too young to get the reference.
Unlike Malcolm Tucker, who I actually rather like most of the time, Jonah is a repellent human being as well as a messenger that deserves to be shot.
Jonah has probably read The Game, but not enough of it to realize that the author ended up realizing such techniques are “for losers.” Jonah connives his way into getting a date with the Veep’s chief-of-staff, who hates him, just because (as he tells another (male, obviously) character): “Don’t worry about it. We’re not going to have sex. Because she hates me. But. Amy’s an eight. And if all the other eights that I do wanna have sex with see that I am capable, then I’m gonna be having some sex with an eight very soon.”
Not one of Tucker’s shouts of “cunt” hates women as much as these sentences do.
For the belief that rating women on a scale of 1-10 is an acceptable lifestyle choice, we have the PUA, or “pick-up artist,” or “irredeemable bell-end” community to thank. And I’d like to thank them especially for talking about those women as nothing more than their numbers – I’d go all The Prisoner on him but “I am not a number!” is bound to be a reference Jonah wouldn’t get either – and expecting them all to think the same way these guys think? “Oh she’s an eight, and she went on a date with him and the only point of dates is to fuck, so since I know I’m an eight too, I should totally fuck that guy!”
Yeah. Totally. Fuck that guy.