Veepstakes—Sincere Policy Wonk Edition
"Hello, what do you want, you can’t have it, goodbye."
—Sue Wilson, Vice President Selina Meyer’s scheduler on Veep
They are the yin and yang of political television. On one side, The West Wing and Borgen — sincere, earnest and idealistic. On the other, Veep and House of Cards — cynical, dark, paeans to dysfunction. (There is no yin or yang to Scandal. It’s just from another planet.)
As much as you might want Jed Bartlet and Birgitte Nyborg on your side, however, the brutal fact is both shows have ceased production.
Selina Meyer and Francis Underwood are in charge.
They are our contemporary TV political lodestars. Vice President Underwood just completed his second run on Netflix earlier this year. And Veep’s third season begins this Sunday on HBO.
When last we left actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s hapless Vice President Selina Meyer on Veep, she had been groped by the Finnish Prime Minister’s husband, walked through a glass door, set the timing for a hostage rescue based on her schedule, plagiarized (via staff) a line from a rival’s speech, had been dragged into a money-for-access scandal by her ex-husband, and decided to run for President.
As for Kevin Spacey’s malevolent Vice President Francis Underwood on House of Cards, well, there are no words. Except here are a few: he kills; he orchestrates impeachments; he seduces; his cold, lizard eyes destroy.
What is a sincere, earnest, idealistic policy wonk to do? Meyer and Underwood are monsters. If the DC policy mill is anything like that portrayed in these shows, repeated exposure should sink you into a pit of deep despair.
…keep reading here.
Previously published at the Brennan Center.