I don’t think I could ever vote for Selina Meyer, the vertiginous vice president Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays so perfectly in “Veep,” HBO’s brilliant political satire. But I’m glad she got cast in that role—the best one she’s ever had—and I love all the humorous riffs on our dysfunctional Republic. Sure, sometimes the snark is over the top, and the occasional attempts at serious subjects jarring, but there’s a reason the real vice president, Joe Biden, teamed up with the actress in full “Veep” mode for an amazing video shown at the recent Washington Correspondents Dinner. No other program captures the zeitgeist of our nation as well—and somehow puts a positive spin on what is really a very depressing situation.
Give Biden credit for being willing to make fun of himself. And kudos to Dreyfus for going even further in the skit and not only addressing the screen, but talking directly to the other Hollywood actor at the cutting edge of political drama, Kevin Spacey. So there, in one seven-minute bit, we had the rollicking gags of “Veep,” a self-mocking Biden in sun-glasses and a leather bomber jacket tooling around D.C. in a yellow Corvette, and a well-deserved poke at pretentious star of “House of Cards” with a barb that stuck: “Yes, we can all look directly into the camera, Kevin. The point is, you’re not supposed to!”
Once I finished watching both seasons of “House of Cards,” I had suffered more than enough. This dark political series on Netflix starring Spacey as Frank Underwood, the sociopath in the Oval Office, had become an unbearably mephitic melodrama. What a relief I had no more episodes to endure. The Beltway politics aside, this show’s depiction of our Republic in rapid decline faster than Rome’s was just too corrosive to enjoy a minute longer. And spoiler alert, what happened to Freddy’s BBQ ribs is a crime worthy of impeachment.
Underwood has done despicable things to characters far more sympathetic than he’ll ever be, and that’s putting it mildly for those out there who still have this show on their must-see list. But I can’t engender any empathy for this guy’s tragic trajectory. It’s all downhill for the Underwoods here on out. It must be so, unless the show-runner is planning to jump a shark. I want this character destroyed—he deserves it—but I’m not sure I need to see it happen. I’ll take the critics’ word for it, once the deed is done. Why should I tune in? Doesn’t that make me an enabler? Or worse: an accomplice?
At least, when I watch “The Housewives of [insert city here],” I can feel soiled, but I know the stigma is temporary. The stench won’t stick because these shows don’t purport to be important, let alone art. Not so for “House of Cards,” which aspires to its place in the pantheon of Golden Television. Of course, the acting is top-notch. Even Robin Wright, as the willing partner in her husband’s ruthless power quest, has her moments—although I still can’t get used to her wearing black stiletto heels day and night in her own house, even as she makes coffee in the kitchen. The Underwoods’ marriage is beyond weird, their sex life so twisted I wish the show were on a regular cable network so the writers would have been challenged to allude to the prurient, not wallow in it. But good riddance to this power couple, I say. To this pair of anti-heroes I bid adieu.
To me, combining the scathing comedy of “Veep” with the political intrigue of “House of Cards” would be Sunday night heaven. It would make American TV history. But alas that work of genius will never be done on this mortal coil. And that’s the saddest part to this contemporary chronicle of our nation’s conflicted condition.