If I had to summarize the current contents of my brain, it would sound more or less like the Lady Gaga scream from A Star Is Born. I’m not the only one, either; as the world anxiously awaits the results of the 2020 presidential election, it feels like everyone—or, at least, everyone on Twitter—is on the verge of absolutely losing it.
There’s a lot of discussion going on right now about the best pop-cultural counter-programming to soothe your overtaxed brain when you just can’t refresh the CNN home page anymore. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for unwinding with The Great British Bake-Off or a classic rom-com, I’ve taken a different tack; over the last three days, I’ve watched three full seasons of the HBO series Veep, and I hope to finish the entire series by the time they call Nevada.
Veep might sound like the worst possible show to watch right now, but hear me out; I don’t actually want to stray too far from reality right now. If I delve into Never Been Kissed or The Notebook or the oeuvre of Nora Ephron, I might feel okay for an hour or two, but there will come an inevitable moment when the credits roll, the music softens, and I’m forced to reenter the real world and face all of its attendant problems. No, thanks; it would feel like stepping out of a warm bubble bath and directly into a Category 5 snowstorm.
What I want to gorge on instead is a fictional American political system, a vision of the electoral process that’s even more flawed and miserable and profanity-inducing than the one we’re all currently living through, and Veep has all of that. Sure, it’s technically a satire, but…is it? (After all, this whole Nevada mess was predicted with a spooky degree of accuracy by the show in 2016.)
Veep isn’t entirely grim from start to finish; there are at least six perfect insults per episode, and there’s even a weird little romantic arc between tense workaholic protagonists Amy and Dan that fulfills my rom-com needs, if more rom-coms involved the central couple referring to each other as “fuckweasel.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a national treasure, and the entire ensemble cast works skillfully in tandem to illustrate just how alternately impotent and cunning her would-be president could be.
What I really treasure about my current Veep rewatch, though, is the way it lets me channel my constantly alternating rage, confusion, and sorrow about the state of the world. In the political drama The West Wing, politics were rendered through a Vaseline-smeared lens of inherent decency, with handsome white men in suits constantly delivering baroque speeches about the importance of a participatory democracy. On Veep, politics are—not to put too fine a point on it—a fluorescent-lit hellscape where winning is everything, and public displays of patriotism exist only to be mocked en masse. We’re never entirely sure what party the central characters belong to, and it doesn’t really matter; they’re in this for the D.C. clout, and unfortunately, that’s the version of American politics that I recognize right now.
Obviously, there’s far more to be optimistic about in the real world than there is on Veep, with the socialist “squad” hanging onto their House seats and a host of diverse candidates making history in local elections. While we wait to find out whether we’re in for four more years of Trump, though, I just want to watch Veep’s dead-eyed politicos refresh their Twitter feeds and snap at each other in the rudest terms possible; it may not be pretty, but right now I can identify.