HBO Comedy Block Week 7
VEEP - CONGRESSIONAL BALL (S5E7)
It was smart, but it definitely had its share of cringe this week. Selina was insufferable tonight, but it was acceptable because everybody else was so full of feces. Tom James was full of crap as he tried to convince key congressional votes to abstain, knowing that if he could just get the decision to the Senate, he might end up being the next President of the United States. He was still far more likable than she was, although Meyer simply stopped playing nice and told a bunch of people off. In the case of Tom, she shut him up in another, far more intimate way.
Throughout the episode, Selina met with various congresspersons and attempted to ensure their vote, and we saw her do the fake thing on Air Force One with Penny Nickerson. She promised Secretary of State to Graves, after doing the same thing for Doyle in the past. Selina was in full-on play the game mode this week, and it would be far tougher to take if we didn't know every character on the show does the same, and the entity Veep lampoons...
...largely does the same.
Jonah's campaigning in New Hampshire was the best part of the episode, from Richard Splett's work in the mock debate leading to that excellent "10% less black" line to his screw-ups with the camera. Creepy Teddy returned, a real sly move by Bill, and although Jonah was up to the challenge, it still ended up looking like he was taking shots at Polly, not Teddy. Misunderstandings or misinterpretations have been a hallmark of Veep since the beginning, and they still find a way to make this entertaining, even when this one was easy to see from a mile away. Bill was way too pleased after Jonah verbally berated his former bully.
Staying in the Northeast, god is Peter MacNicol glorious. His sniveling-prick factor is off the charts. Everything that guy says is gold, including calling his nephew a "sentient enema," a term I've never even considered in my life. He's right there with Roger Furlong, who had another strong week, including being civil in a meeting before one of the most repulsive descriptions imaginable. He used the word jism in it, which is always a crowd pleaser.
Thinking of Mike McClintock as the Director of Communications for the NHL left me laughing, because outside of Washington, there might not be a more poorly managed enterprise he could have selected. It was perfect for Veep. But, of course, he runs into a friend who turns out to have gotten that job instead of him, leading to the closing credits as Mike weaves golf references into his briefing. If Mike were to get the LPGA gig, I immediately demand a spinoff built around the inner-workings of that organization and his role as the C.J. Cregg of women's professional golf.
The Hill's 50 Hottest D.C. Staffers list gave us the Gary Walsh at 21 story and it was fun to see him enjoy the spoils of it, although it was less than surprising when we found out the identity of "Gary Welsh" in the Amy-Candy icy chat at the party. All his colleagues knew it was some kind of misidentification or, in the case of Selina's opinion, a mean-spirited joke. Tony Hale knows how to play these sequences so well, where he can make every word count and sell a great deal with just his eyes and expression. Amy bursting his bubble and his reaction was one of those spots where you realize just how good he is, because he had less than five seconds to get the emotion out there and still found a way to do it.
I'm still not sure how this election is going to play out, because it makes no sense for Selina to go back to the VP role, and if she were to lose, it also doesn't seem to work for her to try local or even congressional-level politics. Tom James becoming POTUS would be most interesting, but it would leave Meyer in an odd spot. She could go into lobbying, though the show has already gone down that road with Dan, maybe into king making, but I'm not sure how that would play either. If she started making speeches and doing false humanitarian work, there's a story there, but the logical conclusion is she just barely snatches a victory from what looks like assured defeat.
Three more episodes remain this season and we do seem destined for the decision to come in the finale. One thing I'd like to see a bit more of in the next few weeks is O'Brien. Brad Leland is really good, and we haven't gotten much of him on screen. Showing the other side and perhaps how disjointed THEY are would provide a bit of weight on the opposite end of the seesaw to remind us how sad the entire system is. I'm not sure that's what we'll get, as the Ryan campaign and the finishing touches of Meyer solidifying her win are more to the norm, but it would be a nice diversion.
SILICON VALLEY - TO BUILD A BETTER BETA (S3E7)
Here's a question for you: As tonight's episode ended, Pied Piper's compression platform, complete with neural net, was a half-second from going live. Based on what we know about this show, how likely is it that Monica's criticisms about the interface and the product looking "engineered" are going to turn out to be wrong? I ask you this because honestly, I don't know. While Silicon Valley runs in a very assembly-line fashion, on occasion the writers throw a curve ball, and it's almost always based on timing.
Last week and early in this week's episode, Erlich Bachman as a character reached a state where it made absolutely zero sense why anyone would associate with him in any way. Big Head is simply a nice young man, a bit dim, but someone who doesn't need money or excess to be happy. He's loyal and he's friendly and the world would be better with more Nelson Bighetti's in it, as long as they weren't running major corporations. I found myself wondering how on earth this guy could blow his entire Hooli severance that quickly, even with the ultimate leech attached to his neck.
The answer came this week, and I was satisfied with it. He didn't completely burn away that money, and neither did Erlich. His business manager was a buffoon, but one that would never be able to pay back what was lost and thus, the chances at any kind of redeemable restitution were nearly invisible. So, it was Big Head's bad choice of who would control his assets that led to much of the money-suck, which is consistent with that character. It doesn't make everything rosy for Nelson or Erlich, but it completed the thought, which is often all that we can ask.
One of the most glaring problems with Entourage, and it only grew as the series continued, was that there was never any consequence for the idiocy that took place on that show. Maybe E and Sloan would be on the outs and Hollywood would be a little wary of Vincent Chase, but as the credits of the film rolled, everything was peachy keen. Everybody was successful or on the verge of it, and the complete foolishness that reigned for years was wiped away. It was fun as fan service, but pathetic in even moderate continuity or believability.
Here, even though the Bachmanity Insanity arc came to at least a semi-conclusion, the money didn't magically return to its owners. That mistake cost Big Head everything, and it led to Erlich recognizing his own fallibility, and more importantly his own culpability. I applaud the show for taking Bachman's character in the direction we saw in the last ten minutes, where he gave up shares that might be worth a ton, in order not to completely eff over someone who gave him a chance as a partner. He was becoming an annoyance, because it was so comically over the top. This was a needed shift, even if temporary.
Sure, Erlich could have waited a week and the shares would have been supremely valuable and he could have paid caterers, waiters, and even Big Head, but this was at least a partially selfless act from by far the most selfish person (outside of Gavin Belson) on Silicon Valley.
Aside from Dinesh and his non-existent friends, which was an excellent recurring gag, the show was again light on big jokes. Sharks fan Kevin hugging Gilfoyle after giving him a ride, buying him four coffees, and agreeing that the two were indeed friends was hilarious. Erlich being pranked by his squatter was also funny, but in general we returned to a serious focus on the story, and it was to the episode's benefit, because this was interesting stuff.
Pied Piper's limited beta phase, leaking to Hooli through the overzealous assistant, Monica's struggle over how to be critical after everyone else loved the build, and Richard's trip to the hookah lounge were all successful, moved the main plot along, and gave us a sense of what's to come in the final three weeks of the season. It was also a good use of Amanda Crew, who quite frankly hasn't had that much to do as of late, as it showed her tech knowledge and the actual respect she has for Richard and his company. In the scene where she came clean of her dislike of the beta, Richard was also far more likable and much more human. It was well executed, as was much of the episode, which left the zany behind for a sense of foundation beneath us as viewers of this show.
Another great fade to black as we're left to wait a week before we see what happens when Pied Piper meets the global computing community. Also intriguing are the engineers who quit Hooli after being rehired in the Endframe acquisition, and what they might do. While it might not make sense for them to go to Hendricks, hopefully there's more to it than just being another illustration of what a douchebag Gavin Belson is. Believe me, we get it.
I'm @GuyNamedJason. I make the impossible...possible. Not really, but that sounds sweet.