HBO Comedy Block, Week 8
SILICON VALLEY: BACHMAN'S EARNING'S OVER-RIDE (S3E8)
T.J. Miller has done some great work this season, and most of it has come because he's proven, to anyone who doubted it, his ability to play both over-the-top comedy and serious, believable emotion. He's not just good for a weed joke every so often or some kind of sexual innuendo; he's just good. When his comedy special releases later this year, you'll see it for yourself. I caught his act a few weeks back at the Wild West Comedy Festival, and he's still in the crafting phase of the new material, and he's speaking on Nietzsche and existentialism and all sorts of things, but can occasionally drop a line about dick and get great laughs.
And, over the course of the last few episodes, that's what Erlich Bachman has become. So, when Richard Hendricks chooses his friend over what would clearly be more appropriate for his company, there's warmth from a show that usually exists in very chilly environments. Sure, before the episode ends, we discover C.J. Cantwell didn't have any of the information Erlich thought she did, and thus he screwed up again, but it's almost forgivable. That's a minor trip and fall on a show that tries to turn that single narrative concept into its entire mantra.
In the final two episodes of the season, we'll see how Pied Piper fares now that it's "the bells of the balls," but maybe more interesting will be what's going to happen at Hooli in the post-Gavin Belson era. While Richard compared himself and Erlich to "Woz and Jobs," Belson is starting to appear more like Apple's visionary the first time he was relieved from power and had to strike out on his own in order to find his way back home. Just as Jobs was often tyrannical and impossible to deal with on any kind of human level, Belson talks of killing inferiors and brings a tortoise and a hare into a boardroom to try and make a point. He's being lapped by a startup and his board votes him out, but we all know he's not disappearing from the show.
When Gavin ran into Jack Barker on the private tarmac, my first thought was, "My God, Barker is going to take over Hooli." That's not what happened -- at least not yet -- but it would certainly be a Silicon Valley kind of move to place someone who knows what Raviga and Pied Piper are all about in control of their top competitor. Or, perhaps the two men form an entirely new company and target the companies that terminated them. At that point, Hooli and Pied Piper are both placed in the newly created seat of precariousness and we watch the war begin. Perhaps we'll know more by the end of the month.
The last person I expected to see lead to Erlich's new job as "Chief Evangelism Officer" was Russ Hanneman, but in an odd way, it made sense. Bachman attempted to keep as much of his dignity as possible, while protecting the company. He went to a man he knew already appreciated the Pied Piper brain trust, as much as a man who eats a bite of a complimentary apple and then uses it as a projectile in a hotel lobby can appreciate anything. The sympathy angle comes in when we're reminded that Laurie Bream is an automaton, and doesn't actually care about people. She's a businesswoman, and we don't even know her sexual orientation, as Richard clearly points out when he's asked that question.
The entire side angle with Jared's jacket was just fabulous writing. The scene in the coffee shop as Gilfoyle embarrasses Dinesh, calling himself a "humiliation suicide bomber," was uproariously funny. The jacket itself was a thing of beauty, but the way it played into three separate portions of the episode, and on multiple levels, might have actually been more effective than Dinesh's ill-fated decision to purchase a gold chain several weeks ago. It was as good a recurring source of humor as I've seen this year, and the gag's quality enabled the rest of the episode to stay on topic.
This hasn't been quite as strong a season as 2015, but it's still been awfully good. Sunday's episode was definitely one of Season 3's best, and the stage is set for an outstanding stuff as we approach the finale in two weeks.
VEEP: CAMP DAVID (S5E8)
David Mandel and his team have really outdone even the loftiest hopes or expectations since taking the Veep helm following its fourth season. This may well be the best year the show has ever had, and Sunday's episode is easily one of my favorites of the entire series. Seriously, I could have watched the awkward gift exchange between the United States and China for an entire half hour.
We also got the season's biggest laugh out loud moment, as Jonah Ryan literally shot himself in the foot on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. It wasn't the gunshot that made it so great; it was Ben's reaction to it. Him attempting not to laugh and failing miserably led to me doing the exact same thing. Everyone in that room wanted to do the same, but some held it together better than others. Selina surprisingly maintained most of her composure, even as Ben lost it, but Mike was also having an extremely difficult time remaining professional. I didn't even try. I backtracked to my childhood and had to fight back a well of positive tears.
Incidentally, when Dan made the comment on Amy's sleep attire, I busted out laughing. It was repulsive, shallow, and right. In short, it was Veep at its best.
That it would lead to the NRA supporting Jonah's campaign and his victory over the widow Sherman shows just how smart Veep can be, because everything appeared to be going against him. Truly, Jeff Kane was right when he said he could elect, "A Muslim AIDS virus, a terrorist fucking AIDS virus in the tiniest suicide vest ever made." And then came Jonah's acceptance speech, where he went full on "Keep it 100 MJ" during his Hall of Fame remarks. I was waiting for Congressman Ryan to take a shot at Scottie Pippen, because it would have fit.
Catherine and Marjorie's relationship is opening up all sorts of new angles for Selina to be a douchebag, and she's taking full advantage. The Hague pen, the Chinese present, both re-gifted, was exactly what we would expect Meyer to do, but was nonetheless unsettlingly obtuse. She then blames Gary, also informing him that by allowing her to give her daughter's girlfriend a Chinese gift, he's committed a felony. While all of this is happening, she's also concerned that Catherine is going to give away money or property to her ex, mainly because she's interested in a chunk of her mother's estate herself.
Finally, Catherine, whose rigidity and sensitivity has sometimes been awfully tedious, can just be the pure vegan, lesbian, self-involved human being. Every choice she makes in any of it can lead to a joke, or just a mean spirited comment from her mother, entirely in sync with both characters. And Clea Duvall has been really good at making sure we believe Marjorie still has no personality, even while her love interest attempts to convince us of the opposite.
We can't put a bow on "Camp David" without discussing Sally Phillips, as Mandel brought Minna Hakkinen back into our lives. Another extremely vapid character, with no filter as she speaks and often insults Selina, she's always good for laughs and jaw-dropping, utter nastiness. Menopause as "rotten fruit" is just one example, but the line about the eyelids and just everything she says, where she doesn't even recognize her degree of rudeness, makes it that much better. She's basically Kent Davison, but far less aware of how she often comes across. And, like Gary Cole, Sally Phillips freaking rules.
How many of you think Selina Meyer did something in Tibet's favor, or at least something for which she can truly take credit? I'm not so sure, because of how excited she was about it, plus China wanting to make and control the announcement. As Minna continually tried to explain to her some of the specifics of the agreement, she refused to listen, which likely means the fine print contains big-time trouble.
Now that Jonah has been elected and pledged to hand Selina the Presidency, from where is the curveball set to strike? Next week, whatever went right on Sunday is going to go wrong. Either that, or someone is going to demand concessions in exchange for a vote the Meyer camp was counting on, or Jonah is going to give an F.U. to Selina for not listening to him on any policy issues from New Hampshire.
Something's coming, because there can be no satisfying finale without an unexpected, dramatic shift in next week's penultimate installment. She hasn't won anything yet, and I'd bet she's going to think she somehow lost by the time the credits roll this weekend.
I'm @GuyNamedJason on Twitter. My name is not "Blachman."