Veep: The Complete Second Season (US - BD RA)
Jonathan enjoys the complete second season of the HBO comedy...
As midterm elections loom, Vice President Meyer is scoring higher ratings than the president in several popularity polls, which she hopes will boost her influence and help her curry favor with the chief executive. But despite her best intentions, even the most banal actions can set off unexpected and often disastrous consequences. (From the HBO synopsis)
A few years ago, while scooping up cheap DVDs at a dying Blockbuster store, I decided to grab a copy of a movie called In the Loop. I didn't know much about it except that it was critically acclaimed and James Gandolfini was in it. That's enough for me. What I found was a hysterical movie that made great fun of the silliness in politics with a very strong cast. It featured one electric character, Malcolm Tucker (the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi), whose foul mouth and creative insults I could not get enough of. When I found out that character was from another series that the director had produced, I had to check out The Thick of It and get an even larger dose of Malcolm Tucker. Now director/producer Armando Iannucci has convinced HBO that this same format can work for an American show about politics, and that is how we got Veep.
Veep is very much a spiritual companion to Iannucci's earlier projects. It features many of the same cast members from In the Loop, like Anna Chlumsky and David Rasche, but they play different characters. Veep also brings in a huge range of comedy talent that was not present in the previous series, like Arrested Development favorite (and recent Emmy winner) Tony Hale, UCB veteran Matt Walsh, Gary Cole and the talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus who has safely escaped the Seinfeld curse. Louis-Dreyfus carries the show well, portraying a character that is charming but amusingly incompetent at times. My favorite cast member has to be Timothy Simons as Jonah. He is a lumbering annoyance that always know how to chime in at the wrong moments and say the least helpful things, while also dishing out some funny insults. He's very much the equivalent of Zach Woods's role from In the Loop, and Veep cleverly pits them against each other with amusing results.
Veep has a lot of clever, rapid fire humor, but its hard to escape the feeling that something is missing. I believe what Veep lacks is a magnetic character like Malcolm Tucker. There's a bunch of talent in every scene of the show, but nobody brings the same level of amusement and entertainment as that hatred spewing force of nature. I've heard that some of Veep season 3 will take place in Europe, and I'm hoping for at least a cameo. Veep has some overarching plot developments, but most episodes are self contained, so there is no wrong way to jump into the series. I encourage giving it a watch if you see it coming on HBO. The humor isn't focused on real politics, but more on the ridiculousness of politics in general. Season 2 has been a step up in quality from Season 1 and I'm hoping the trend continues.
HBO continues their trend of high quality 1080p transfers with this release. Filmed on the Arri Alexa Plus, this season looks especially sharp and the transfer showcases the capabilities of the digital camera nicely. This isn't an effects filled extravaganza that will show off your TV, but this is an impressive image with a lot of fine detail if you're looking for it. Veep has a pretty natural look to accompany its documentary-like style. Colors look very accurate with a slight warm push. Most scenes take place inside of rooms and offices with no windows, so there isn't a ton of dynamic lighting or contrasts for this transfer to tackle. The show has a very appropriate visual style that feels right for it even if it doesn't push the limits of your fancy HDTV. Fans should be pleased with the quality of this home release.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that accompanies this season is also great at fulfilling its modest purpose. There really isn't too much to write about on the audio for this show. It is a dialogue-focused affair and the voices are all perfectly clear and easy to interpret. The surround channels are only used for the occasional background noise and chatter, usually when the veep is attending banquets or public events. They successfully add to the atmosphere of the scenes.
Since it isn't listed on the box, I've decided to share the full roster for the four episodes that include Audio Commentary tracks:
Episode 1: Creator/executive producer Armando Iannucci, co-executive producer/writer Tony Roche, Timothy Simons (Jonah),Kevin Dunn (Ben) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina).
Episode 3: Creator/executive producer, co-executive producer/writer Tony Roche, executive producer Frank Rich, executive producer Chris Godsick, Kevin Dunn (Ben) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina).
Episode 8: Creator/executive producer, executive producer Chris Godsick, co-executive producer/writer Tony Roche, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina) and Matt Walsh (Mike).
Episode 10: Creator/executive producer, executive producer Chris Godsick, co-executive producer/writer Tony Roche, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Selina), Gary Cole (Kent) and Matt Walsh (Mike).
These commentary tracks are rather enjoyable. As can be expected with such a funny cast, most of the time is spent goofing around with the cast members often complementing one another and laughing at each others work on the show. The writers give a little insight into their inspirations for certain bits, but these tracks lean in favor of entertainment over informative.
Each episode has about 2-4 minutes of Deleted Scenes (HD) that play more like line-o-ramas from other comedy releases. The majority of them are extra jokes or different improvisations that don't vary too far from what made the final cut, but fans of the show's sense of humor will find much enjoyment here.
Veep continues to be a hilarious navigation through politics thanks to a talented cast and consistently clever writing, even if it lacks a character as memorable as The Thick of It's Malcolm Tucker. HBO's reputation for strong AV quality remains untarnished. Extras are light, but there are some fun commentary tracks.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Release Date: 25th March 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS Digital Surround 5.1 French, DTS Digital Surround 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Four Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale
Length: 268 minutes