THE SHOW "Veep"
WHEN | WHERE Second-season premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The midterms have arrived with a thud. They are a debacle for the president, whose party loses the House -- and also, by association, the vice president, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who (no surprise) is trying to figure out what this means for her. But she may see a break in the gathering storm. Her poll numbers during campaigning actually exceeded the president's -- slightly. That's her opening to get a prominent seat at the head of his table because, as her grandfather counseled, if you don't have a seat, you're on the menu. There are impediments, notably the president's poll guru, Kent (Gary Cole), who regulates access to the Oval Office with a gleeful authoritarian zeal.
MY SAY The first few episodes of "Veep's" freshman season were like strangers in a strange land -- written by brilliant British satirist Armando Iannucci ("The Thick of It"), the language seemed off and even the expletives sounded like exotic imports that were unquestionably fun to say but impossible to define. But that's all so last year: With Sunday's second-season launch, "Veep" is the single most improved series on television, though by the end of last season -- when Selina had to go to Ohio to not endorse someone for governor (long story, but a funny one) -- it was starting to reach cruising altitude.
How did this happen? Well, if you had Louis-Dreyfus -- one of the great comic actresses in American television history -- as your lead, it would be hard not to be good, at least given time. Her support is excellent, too: Amy (Anna Chlumsky), Dan (Reid Scott), Mike (Matt Walsh) and Gary (Tony Hale) are Meyer's aides whose instincts for self-preservation exceed even her own. Iannucci is also a particularly fast learner who has cracked the code of American political doublespeak, defined as follows: Whatever someone in Washington says, the precise exact opposite is meant. There may be little of the savagery that Iannucci (and his amazing lead, Peter Capaldi) poured into "Thick," but "Veep" has all of the rhetorical pleasures.
BOTTOM LINE "Veep," at last, is a winner.