By now, the premise of Armando Iannucci’s “Veep” should have run out of steam — especially since Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is serving out a term as president, after the abrupt resignation of her predecessor.
Remarkably, the show returns for a fourth season Sunday night (nicely paired with “Silicon Valley”) with the same wall-climbingly hilarious command of awkwardness and public humiliation, not only for President Meyer but her ever-expanding staff of buffoons. Half of them are assigned to the West Wing; the other half are trying to keep Meyer’s election campaign afloat.
Broadening the scale of Meyer’s world might seem detrimental to a comedy that thrived when it was confined to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Then again, putting Selina in the White House is comedy gold, even in just portraying the exhaustion she un-stoically endures.
Meyer’s first State of the Union address becomes a disaster when her press secretary, Mike (Matt Walsh), gets the bright idea to revise the bottom half of the speech while the top half is being delivered; a glitch leaves the president with a blank screen. “There are no words . . . ,” she tells Congress, trying to stall.
There also aren’t many words left to describe why “Veep” keeps working as well it does. From a technical perspective (having spent a day on the show’s Maryland set a while back), I can tell you that shows like this are deceptively labor-intensive, requiring take after take for scenes that rarely last longer than a minute, which are compressed down to a manic, swift-moving essence.
Louis-Dreyfus, of course, is indefatigable — both as an actress and as this character, who comes very close in her executive chaos to losing the two things that matter most: Her personal assistant Gary (Tony Hale) and the ubiquitous Leviathan bag he shoulders.
The Leviathan doesn’t hold nuclear codes, but, as fans of the show know, the world falls apart without it.
(30 minutes) returns Sunday at
10:30 p.m. on HBO.