HBO Comedy Block Week 9
VEEP - KISSING YOUR SISTER (S5E9)
Interesting choice, but we should have seen it coming, and perhaps you did. Using Catherine's documentary to give us outtakes, punch lines, insults, and some emotional story-related content from the season might not have been exactly what I wanted or expected, but when it was over, it felt like a good decision. Veep took the documentary and showed the results of the election through the rough cut, or perhaps the final edit, though we're likely the only ones who will ever see it.
I asked last week how we would fill this 30 minutes as it appeared like Selina Meyer had put herself in position to win the election, wondering if Jonah would become a problem (he did), or if some of the other sure-thing votes would end up falling by the wayside (they did).
As we stand now, Tom James is on the verge of the Presidency, due to three abstentions and his knowledge of Senate rules and procedures, plus his overall likability. That would potentially mean Meyer would take the Veep role and we'd be right back where we started five seasons ago. It doesn't feel cheap or easy, because of the way Mandel and his team have written the various capillaries off the main vein of Season 5. However, we still have a finale to get through next week, and I wouldn't necessarily rule anything out, though if you stop and think about the prospects of a James-Meyer administration, with Jonah in Congress, there's a lot to like.
As for the documentary, I assume it never sees the light of day, because if it did, Tom James wouldn't end up as POTUS, due to his copulation with Selina after back-and-forth f bombs at the Christmas party. Plus, it paints everyone in the West Wing as complete buffoons, reprehensible douchebags, or both. In most cases, it's both. However, it also portrays them as human beings; people with feelings, beginning with Meyer herself.
I also didn't anticipate a fight between Catherine and Marjorie, but that small angle added depth the episode otherwise wouldn't have had. Marjorie hasn't told her parents or her family of her sexual orientation, and it drives a wedge between our pair of lesbian lovers. The "Kissing Your Sister" analogy was a bit untoward as it related to these two, but though the younger Meyer does have a brain, she still does or says some idiotic things from time to time. She's still not a character I particularly enjoy, because what's awkward with her is created through constant misery, but this new direction has been intriguing.
Jonah's Lord of the Rings quest to cast his vote was tremendous, both from his perspective as well as from Richard Splett's. Watching these guys go from almost entirely inept to fully, no room to breathe inept was the highlight of the episode. I am giddy with anticipation of Season 6 as Congressman Ryan deals with actually being Congressman Ryan. And Jeff Kane was on screen for less than ten seconds, but it was glorious, as Jonah embarrassed himself and potentially scarred the ears of innocent children at an elementary school.
And, in similar fashion to Kane, Roger Furlong took 20 seconds and made it perfect, and even when he was off camera, Dan Egan reciting what Furlong told him in a meeting completely worked. Roger, during his interview, said Selina Meyer is someone he would miss if she lost, because "she's the only one that gets me." Right, she's foul mouthed, putrid, selfish, and completely oblivious to anyone other than herself. It's what makes Furlong so indispensible to Veep, because putting more than one of those characters around the beltway on a regular basis gives the show true, lasting bite.
We met Ben Cafferty's wife, who seemed lovely. We watched Mike McLintock go through happy adoption news, sad news, and then more news than he had prepared to deal with, all while Selina interviews his replacement. We saw what Kent Davison does with his free time, which just made me want a spinoff, featuring Kent attempting to finagle his way to become President of his Motorcycle Club. And, we saw everyone -- including Amy -- call Amy "shrill."
I've seen faux-documentary episodes that have been better than this one, but I've seen far more that have been worse. I favor Black-ish's "Any Given Saturday" a bit more than Veep's penultimate from last night, but not by much. They were both well done, and though this enabled Veep's writers to coast somewhat on what they've already created this year, there was enough new, or juicy, or deep, or just plain funny, to justify the concept. A solid episode, and the finale will no doubt be interesting.
SILICON VALLEY - DAILY ACTIVE USERS (S3E9)
This is a quote from my, "To Build a Better Beta," review from two weeks ago:
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 said then I didn't know, because what we've learned about Silicon Valley and how Mike Judge and company structure it, is that the failures are going to be plentiful, but short lived, and the successes are going to be rare, and even shorter lived. Last night, we got our answer, because as good as everything felt last week for the Pied Piper team as the platform launched, the emotions all flipped head to toe seven days later.
Before the end of last night's episode, Richard Hendricks said, "It's over." He was catatonic, in the fetal position in Erlich's filthy bathtub, believing that his dream was dead. How is it possible for the top app in the Hooli store and one of the most popular apps in the world to fall so quickly? Well, it's all about daily active users, and Pied Piper's lack thereof. We come to find out, Pied Piper is incredibly complex, and confuses or frightens many normal consumers, who run the other way and never open the program again.
But, thank goodness for Bernice.
The focus group scene was far different than what we saw in Jonah's Veep focus group sequence a few weeks ago, as Hendricks was anything but combative, instead desperately wanting the attendees to understand his vision and recognize how valuable the platform could be for compression and for space on their devices.
We've come to learn the heart of Silicon Valley is Jared, the optimist, the one who feels thankful to be included and works hard, with no ill will towards anyone he encounters on the show. He might be a bit naÃ¯ve and sometimes might push the innocent envelope a little too far, but he's the one that's easiest to root for. When its revealed that he's worked out an arrangement to try and save the company through a subscriber or user farm in Asia, it makes sense for that guy, except that he's never been one to look for a below-the-belt shortcut. What it means is Pied Piper is actually in a tremendous amount of trouble as a company.
"Pipey" arriving should tell us all we need to know about what a cluster it is to use Pied Piper without extensive knowledge. Erlich said it all with his question: "What in the name of fuck is that?"
Quietly, Gilfoyle and Jared's scenes together were the episode's best, as the lie detector idea worked beautifully, playing to the strengths of both Zach Woods and Martin Starr. And for poor Dinesh, he's just an asshole; at least that's how the entire world sees him. It will be interesting to see if Judge helps write him out of that hole and soften him in some way, or if Kumail Nanjiani will continue to frown a lot on this show.
Meanwhile, Jack Barker and Gavin Belson are indeed working together, and the first order of business is to bring back "The Box." It secures Belson's job, gives him more power, and enables him to threaten the rest of the board for betraying him. Gavin the Tyrant is the Gavin the show needs for its villain. Plus, we'll be getting more Stephen Tobolowsky on Silicon Valley, which is a fantastic reality to wake up to on this Monday morning. I thought the two might strike out on their own, because I didn't realize Gavin hadn't already left Hooli, but doing it within the company we already understand keeps the show very centralized around two entities, rather than potentially getting too convoluted by adding a new player to the mix.
One thing Hooli has always represented is more of a Google-way of doing things, but with an Apple-like CEO. The box is a departure from both, unless you want to consider it similar to Steve Jobs when he worked for Next. It's a desperate move, but one that should work, at least in the short term, to make Hooli money. Looking at Pied Piper's current predicament, it's probable Belson-Barker will be the ones counting dough as the third season comes to a close.
Pied Piper is picking up about 7,000 new users a day due to Jared's scheme. The question I have is whether he tells anyone or whether C.J. Cantwell, prior to the end of the finale, discovers it externally. Usually, there's a very positive moment in a Silicon finale, and then something that casts a bit of doubt over the top of the celebration. Perhaps, this time it's the opposite, with the cloud taking the starring role, rather than its silver lining. If that's the case, I think we might see the beginning of a Richard-Monica relationship, but only if Pied Piper is in the dumpster. That will come after a heart to heart discussion where she tries to help him through something tough, and "it" will finally click.
I won't predict that's what's coming, but it wouldn't surprise me. Things look bleak, and they got there in the fast lane. Next week, let's see how Judge finds a way to hit the brakes, and maybe even changes lanes.
I'm @GuyNamedJason on the tweets. Like the elephant, I never forget.