In 2007, American network ABC produced a pilot for their version of The Thick Of It. Amongst the people who developed the show was Mitch Hurwitz (the man behind the brilliant Arrested Development), and included actors like Oliver Platt and Michael McKean (aka Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins). It was directed by Christopher Guest (another Tap alumni), but despite the list of talent involved, the show was not picked up. Armando Iannucci, who created The Thick Of It, was ultimately happy that it didn’t make it to television, saying ‘….It was terrible…they took the idea and chucked out all the style’.
Since then, The Thick Of It continued to be a critically acclaimed BBC series, and in 2009 a film, In The Loop, featuring some of the same characters and actors as the TV series was also released to much acclaim. Also in 2009, Iannucci had talks with HBO about attempting to adapt the show for US television again, with the network commissioning a pilot for a new series based in the offices of the vice president, which would be called Veep.
Iannucci wrote the pilot with Simon Blackwell, who had previously written for Peep Show as well as The Thick Of It and In the Loop. HBO were clearly impressed by the pilot, and a full series was commissioned in April last year. Iannucci gathered more writers from The Thick Of It and In The Loop, and work began on what would become series one.
Taking the lead role is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, no stranger to sitcom success after starring in Seinfeld (one of the great sitcoms) for almost a decade, and then holding her own as the lead in The New Adventures Of Old Christine for five years. She plays Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States, and is joined by Anna Chlumsky (who also starred in In The Loop) as Amy Brookheimer, Selina’s chief of staff, and Tony Hale (who played Buster in Arrested Development) as Gary Walsh, her personal aide.
While the shooting style, humour and basic plot are the same in Veep as they are in the Thick Of It, there are enough differences between the shows that should enable Veep to find its own identity. There are small differences like an opening credits sequence and incidental music, but the biggest difference in the pilot is the lack of a Malcolm Tucker-esque character. The show isn’t missing any swearing, as there’s plenty of inventive insulting going on, but there doesn’t appear to be one particular character who will dish out bollockings to anyone in the office, regardless of their stature.
But the most important thing about Veep is whether it is funny or not. And the good news is that it is. It’s not really surprising of course, as Iannucci has a long track record of success when it comes to comedy on television, having been an integral part of all things Alan Partridge, including The Day Today, and working with Stewart Lee on his comedy vehicle, as well as making his own successful shows like The Armando Iannucci Shows and Time Trumpet. He’s well versed in politics too, and the workings of US government appear to be accurately portrayed in the pilot. There are several storylines in the pilot, with Selina angering the plastics industry in a Tweet, a joke during a speech backfiring and Amy accidentally signing her own name instead of Selina’s on a condolence card.
With Iannucci in control, and a writing team that knows what he looks for, Veep seems to almost be guaranteed success.
Veep will air on Sky Atlantic in June.