My 2020 in Books


Like most, a good chunk of my time otherwise not doing anything in 2020 was spent with books and graphic novels. I always feel like I could be reading more, but I actually felt pretty accomplished by the end of the year, reading about 20 novels and non-fiction books (and a bunch more in the comics realm, but more about that in another post). Like anything else, it was a bit of a mixed bag, but I thought I did a pretty good job curating things I really wanted to read, so I thought it might be interesting to run through the list and share some recommendations!

7b2df2f2b8-386a-43fc-b1f0-a3aeab5d9c6a7dimg100Normal People – Sally Rooney

You may have heard about the Hulu miniseries this novel has already become, about the on-again off-again relationship of two very different high school (then college) kids who have more in common than they think, but if you haven’t seen or read either, I highly recommend starting with the book. The miniseries is actually a really good adaptation (likely due to the involvement of the author in the process, not to mention the keen eye of Lenny Abrahamson, who directed half the series (with Hattie Macdonald directing the latter half) and has done good work adapting dramatic novels in the past. So something as thoroughly satisfying as the miniseries may turn you off from also reading the novel, and that would be a shame because it’s a damn fine novel, most likely the best thing I read all year. Plus, going into series knowing the characters of Marianne and Connell intimately added another layer for me. 

220px-jemisin_the_stone_sky_coverThe Stone Sky (The Broken Earth Trilogy #3) – N.K. Jemisin

My relationship with the Broken Earth trilogy and N.K. Jemisin’s writing has been a little bumpy, if I’m being honest. I appreciate her skill as a fantasy writer, and it hits me in flashes when I’m reading her work, but I’ve honestly had trouble putting it all together and getting excited about it as I’m reading her novels. There are moments of brilliance all throughout this trilogy, a climate fiction series about a world constantly ravaged by climate change events and the fantastical “Orogenes” that control energy and cause/prevent earthquakes in order to keep the world from completely self-destructing, and there’s an inherent brilliance to how it’s all structured and how confident Jemisin is in presenting a world that’s both very familiar and very foreign and different. There are excellent, relevant themes about climate change, the destructive nature of white supremacy, and more personal ones about motherhood and family, and these all three books are complex, intricate master classes in modern science fiction and fantasy literature, you just have to put yourself in the right mood for what these are, as I often had a tough time getting into them. 

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Devolution – Max Brooks

Max Brooks doesn’t write novels that often, so I was really excited for Devolution, hoping it would do for the monster genre (in this case Bigfoot) what World War Z had done for the zombie genre years ago. World War Z gave us a whole new perspective on what zombie fiction could be, and while Devolution applies a lot of the same principles to this story about a hyper-modern micro-community that gets attacked by sasquatch-like creatures, I can’t say I was anywhere near as enthralled as I was hoping to be. It’s an entertaining horror story, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoyed my time with it, so perhaps I was simply expecting too much. Not every book can be genre-defining, I suppose, but when you write novels as sporadically as Max Brooks does, you can’t blame your readers for wanting more than a generic monster thriller.

915recsxnnl Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, Yes is similar in certain ways to Normal People, in that it is a complicated, emotional love story between two characters, but where Normal People charms you and draws you in with the relative simplicity of its premise and plot, Ask Again wows you with a much more complex multi-generational plot-driven epic about love, family, mental illness, class, and so much more. Like Normal People, I can visualize this story as I’m reading it (but I don’t know what brave soul would dare take on trying to film its complex, multi-generational story). It doubles down on the themes of forbidden love a lot more than Normal People, a much more modernistic take on the subject, to the point where even the author accepts the comparisons to Romeo and Juliet. This has all the makings of a novel that could easily become a classic, and it’s one of the best books I read in 2020.

vanishinghalf_3dbookshot_gmaThe Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

Rounding out my trilogy, of sorts, of family drama and forbidden romance is this multi-generational story about African-American twins who lose each other and wind up living very different lives. Taking place over the course of decades in which America’s racial fabric changed drastically in the 20th century, we follow Desiree and Stella as they go through very different journeys, as one of them leads her life passing as a white person, unbeknownst to her new family, or her old one, who never stops searching for her. I must admit that I had trouble getting into this one, despite its excellent premise and all of its buzz, but there are some twists and turns late in the book that are well worth the setup. I don’t know if I’d concur with those that put it up there are one of the best books of 2020, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Fall; or Dodge In Hell – Neal Stephenson

I don’t think I have a more complicated relationship with an author than I do with Neal Stephenson. Some of his work has been eye-openingly brilliant to me, notably Seveneves, which may be my favourite science fiction novel of all time. But just about everything he writes is also overwrought and in desperate need of an editor who’s willing to say no to him on occasion. None of that is more apparent than in Fall, which clocks in at nearly 900 pages, which may actually be on the shorter side for him. And just like a lot of his previous work, about a third of it should have probably been left on the cutting room floor. Despite its very apparently and heavy flaws, there’s so much about Fall that I actually liked. The book is about a billionaire game developer (the titular Dodge), whose mind us uploaded to the cloud upon his tragic and sudden death, after which the book follows two threads. The good: how society is affected by the ostensive confirmation of an afterlife, albeit one created by man. This is where Stephenson excels. He portrays a near-future world (particularly America) that becomes different in sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic ways. His willingness to go places other science fiction authors wouldn’t dare with such force and precision is what I appreciate about him. However that also gives us the bad: a meandering, often vague exploration of what the mind would do given a blank canvas to create the universe that lasts hundreds of pages too long. We see what Dodge’s mind sees in the abstract, we see him build his world from scratch and then fight for it in what was clearly an attempt to parallel the bible and works such as Paradise Lost, but it’s just way too much and way too boring when the other half of the story is so much more interesting. Stephenson has been doing this for years and it won’t change, so you can only hope that the next one will be better.

41ztsdtyill._sx331_bo1204203200_The Fifth Risk – Michael Lewis

Hear me out: donald trump is bad. Of course we all know this, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone explain it more succinctly and dramatically than Michael Lewis in The Fifth Risk, a book about the clear and present dangers of an incompetent, likely malevolent government that has no interest in running a government and its agencies the way they were intended to be run; for the people, and not the personal gain of the people in charge. I know there’s a sentiment that all politicians in America are bad, but there are things that the government does that most people don’t understand, including those that were put in charge of those things in 2016. Things that would lead to widespread suffering or even destruction if they were mishandled. Lewis demonstrates this through interviews with people are various departments that handle things like maintaining a deadly nuclear arsenal, warning people about natural disasters and even feeding millions of Americans, and contrasts it with the goals of the trump administration, which included weeding out people who believed in climate change from positions within the federal government and using its agencies to amass wealth and power in the private sector. However bad you think it is, it’s actually so much worse. And it was especially eye-opening to read back in the spring of 2020 when those failures were just starting to be on display with the COVID pandemic, a topic which Lewis hadn’t even really considered. But the parallels are right there. If you’re curious about what the government actually does to help you, read this book.

814hgnm33clBest. Movie. Year. Ever. – Brian Raftery

I was skeptical about a book positing that any particular year in movies is the “best” year, but Brian Raftery makes a very strong case for 1999, a year on the cusp of major change in Hollywood with a shocking amount of hits and influential films. I still don’t think you could definitively say any year is the “best” for movies, and I have problems with Raftery’s conclusion that the industry started a long downfall after this, and with how he ignored what was also a tremendous and transformative year for television, but I came out of this book appreciating the topic almost as a style of debate, and would love to see more years in Hollywood broached this way. And entertaining read if you’re into film history.

91bh9jvbrzl Dead Astronauts – Jeff Vandermeer &

Borne – Jeff Vandermeer

It’s hard to put into words the feelings that Jeff Vandermeer made me feel the first time I ever picked up one of his books. Annihilation is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read. It’s so unique, and once you pick it up it’s hard to put down. Even its unfortunately mediocre followups, Control and Acceptance. Just look at the Alex Garland film adaption of the book. I thought that movie was nothing like how I envisioned Annhilation, but Garland said that the movie basically came to him in a dream, and I can totally get that. That’s the kind of effect I feel Jeff Vandermeer can have through his work, and I’ve been chasing that ever since. And in certain ways, it’s almost there in both 2017’s Borne, and its 2019 followup, Dead Astronauts, two bizarre, unique post-apocalyptic worlds that feature both advanced technology and seemingly mythical creatures. Both having a lot to say about the direction the planet is heading. But ultimately, both falling short of achieving what Vandermeer did with Annihilation, unfortunately. Neither book made me feel what I’ve been chasing, but they might still be worth checking out.

41zgiz5ujolHumans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up – Tom Phillips

I know we’re a long way’s away from having parties again, but if we were able to get together tomorrow, the first thing I’d annoyingly talk about at some sort of dinner party or get together is the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias I learned about in this book. It’s one of the many anecdotes about human stupidity and the way it repeats itself throughout history that Tom Phillips shares in the book, from Lucy, the early primate that fell out of a tree, to, of course, donald trump, the primate that somehow became an American President, Humans is full of interesting anecdotes presented in a way that’s often laugh-out-loud funny and easy and fun to read. And I will forever be grateful to it for teaching me to be at least 10% more annoying at parties, that is if we ever get to go to parties ever again.

 

QUICK HITS:

  • A Very Punchable Face – Colin Jost: As an SNL fan, I had a lot of fun reading about Colin Jost’s life and all the behind-the-scenes stories from his many years on the show.
  • The Library Book – Susan Orlean: I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this knowledge I now possess about the Los Angeles Public library and the fire that almost destroyed it many years ago, but I’m glad I have it. If you’re looking for a lighter True Crime style story, this is a good one.
  • Movies (and Other Things) – Shea Serrano: A relatively personal collection of movie essays, I would only recommend it if you’re aware of the author, as I am from the podcast world, but it’s still a fun read about recent pop culture in the world of movies.
  • White Fragility – Robin Diangelo: Among the books that were all the rage in the wake of the latest BLM movement last year, I would say this is a relatively easy read that most people should check out as a starting point to racial allyship.
  • Invisible Women – Caroline Criago Perez: Many of the statistics on the gender gap presented in this book are eye-opening and will make you angry, however the whole thing winds up being pretty dry and statistics oriented and lacks a proper through-line to encourage action or to be accessible to the people who likely need to read it the most. But if you’re interesting in the many, many ways women are screwed over all around our male-dominated capitalist society, I’d recommend it.
  • Calypso – David Sedaris: I’ve been told this isn’t the best starting point for people who want to check out Sedaris, so I’m going to give him another shot, but to be blunt, I wasn’t too impressed with the mostly out of touch perspectives of a crotchety old man who seemingly hates everything. I get that it’s a bit, but perhaps I wasn’t in the right headspace for it when I read it.

The Top 20 Best Movies of 2019

I know it’s late but I realized I never posted my list of the best movies of 2019, so here it is, with a blurb for each movie!

20. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story: I have a weird appreciation for a creator like Vince Gilligan who’s willing to go back to his masterpiece and tinker with it. We didn’t need to see what happened to Jesse Pinkman after Breaking Bad but the character deserved more than he got over the course of that show, and I’m happy Gilligan decided to show that to us. It’s the kind of thing that’s only possible in this modern age of television and filmmaking.

19. Dolemite Is My Name: The biggest Oscar snub this year may have been Uncut Gems, but Eddie Murphy is a close second for his wonderful performance in this great, funny, entertaining retelling of the life of Rudy Ray Moore and the making of the blacksploitation film Dolemite in the 70s.

18. Ford V Ferrari: If you’re doing a period piece about a car race, you already have my curiosity. Cast Matt Damon and Christian Bale as competing Car Dudes who inevitably become best friends and you catch my attention.

17. The Two Popes: This could have been ostensibly a stage play of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce sitting in a Vatican room debating ecclesiastical affairs and it would have still wound up on my list. In actuality, it’s so much more. Perhaps bordering a little on propaganda for the Catholic church, but still refreshingly honest and even a little raw.

16. Booksmart: It’s almost unbelievable that this is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut. The film is so well-made, the cast is fantastic and the story feels very modern but accessible. Probably the best pure comedy of the year!

15. Ad Astra: The film’s glacial pace might turn you off but I really appreciate James Gray refusing to sacrifice his vision of a single man’s personal journey throughout the vast expanse of the solar system to make a more marketable sci fi action film. And yet this isn’t just Brad Pitt’s space daddy issues, it’s also a really cool vision of a near-future human race that has finally embraced (and commercialized) space travel. There’s a Subway on the moon! How can you eat fresh where there’s no atmosphere!?

14. American Factory: Mark my words – documentaries exposing Chinese culture to Western audiences are going to dominate this decade. For a variety of reasons, films that show us what life for two billion people on the other side of the globe is like is essential, and American factory shows us how that culture is on a collision course with our own so well. This is easily the one documentary of 2019 that’s a must watch.

13. 1917: While I don’t agree with the criticisms of 1917 that paint its storytelling and character development as thin or vapid, it’s undeniable that what really sells the story that Sam Mendes inherited from his grandfather is the marvel of how it was made, from the cinematography to the production design to the music and everything in between. People have unfairly compared this to Call of Duty, when more fitting, narrative driven video game comparisons such as Uncharted and God of War exist.

12. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: With this and Can You Ever Forgive me?, Marielle Heller is quickly becoming one of my favourite directors, able to see past the flashy nature of the headline of a story and get to the nitty gritty of what makes the people it’s about tick. ABDITN could have easily been a shallow retelling of the life of Fred Rogers. Instead it’s a deeply moving story about the struggles of a man who happened to come across him in a time of crisis to interview him, and how his life was affected by their interactions. And what better movie about Mr. Rogers could there be than one where the effect he had on people is on prominent display, rather than the man himself?

11. Little Women: I experienced reticence going in to Little Women because Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird didn’t have the effect on me that it did on most. But her skill as a writer and filmmaker finally clicked with me about halfway through this film, at which point it becomes crystal clear how she’s able to bring characters and their motivations and struggles to life. Little Women has a brilliant, unique screenplay (for a film based on a book that’s been adapted countless times already) and a phenomenal cast that make it memorable and modernizes its message for present day.

10. Knives Out: I’ve been watching a lot of old movies lately, including noir films and murder mysteries, so Knives Out really hit the spot. I already liked Rian Johnson’s work, but any writer/director who recognizes an under-appreciated genre and decides to revitalize it (and also modernize it in fun ways) gets bonus points from me.

9. The Farewell: I feel like I have the same points to make about The Farewell as I had about American Factory, as it goes to great lengths to expose its audience to Chinese cultures and traditions (albeit in this case about family rather than work ethic). But this is also a phenomenal movie about family that anyone can relate to even if they can’t wrap their heads around the idea of keeping an illness from a loved one. In that sense The Farewell justifies itself really well and makes itself very accessible to audiences that might not share those customs, without sacrificing its uniqueness. Also, Awkwafina delivers one of the best performances of the year and should have been up for the Oscar.

8. Marriage Story: Marriage Story has been memed to death at this point since everyone got to see it on Netflix in December, but I think that’s really taken away from all the great aspects of the movie. The performances are what shine, of course (in another year or perhaps a parallel dimension we’d be talking about Oscar Winners Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson on top of Laura Dern), but the film also features fantastic writing and direction from Noah Bombauch, who not only finds a way to tell a very difficult story in an entertaining and moving way, but also manages to sneak in an adaptation of Sondheim’s Company in the middle of the film.

7. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: Instead of ranting and raving about all the reasons I loved the 3rd John Wick, how about we just watch the knife museum scene again?

6. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood: Similarly, my appreciation for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film could probably be best expressed by the gif below. But to be honest, there’s so much more to love about OUATIH. It’s much more fun than Tarantino’s last few films without sacrificing his trademark violence or what he’s learned in this late stage of his career as a filmmaker. He gets some of the best performances of of the careers of his actors and Brad Pitt was entirely deserving of the Oscar he won. And the way he recreated this era of Hollywood is a marvel to witness. But also, the gif.

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5. Uncut Gems: Objectively the Oscars’ worst snub of the year, perhaps of the decade. A performance of this caliber from Adam Sandler is as rare as the jewel he’s after in the movie, and the tension and realism crafted by the Safdie Brothers was unmatched this year.

4. Avengers: Endgame: Every year gives us a new reason to stop being pretentious about superhero movies. You can have a legitimately good scifi movie like Logan, socially evocative films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman, but it’s also nice when one of them doesn’t lose sight of what they are, and manages to bring comic books to life better than any movie before them. Endgame is that movie. I will never not nerd out watching any number of scenes from this film, notably when all the heroes return and gather around a battered and bruised Captain America. I’d say that we’ll never see anything like it again, but this is Marvel we’re talking about.

3. Rocketman: Everything the objectively terrible Bohemian Rhapsody did wrong last year, Rocketman did right. It involved the agenda-less artist to tell as accurate a story as possible but also gave the film the flair and panache that artist has always deserved. This isn’t a biopic, it’s a musical. They actually put effort into the music and making this movie fun, and it’s actually Taron Egerton singing the entire time. Why this movie got left by the wayside last year will leave me perplexed for a long time.

2. Midsommar: I saw Midsommar late in its theatrical run completely alone in a dingy local theater and it was perhaps the best cinematic experience I’ve had in a good long while. The film is unnerving and scary despite being super bright, the violence is well-timed and perfectly gory, and Florence Pugh delivers a pitch perfect performance in the most disconcerting breakup movie of all time.

1. Parasite: You don’t need me to tell you why Parasite is good at this point, just go watch it. Instead I’ll just marvel at the fact that the Academy managed the seemingly impossible feat of awarding best picture to the consensus best movie of the year. The fact that they did it with a South Korean movie entirely in a foreign language is even more impressive. Question is whether is this the exception to the rule or the start of a new era. Hopefully the latter!


Best of the Rest: A list of all the other movies I enjoyed to a certain extent or another in 2019 and want to shout out but naturally didn’t fit in my top 20!

Us, Jojo Rabbit, Yesterday, Always Be My Maybe, The Last Black Man in San Fransisco,  Late Night, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lighthouse, The Report, One Child Nation, Apollo 11, Glass,  Cold Pursuit, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, Shazam!, Long Shot, Rambo: Last Blood, Aladdin, Alita: Battle Angel, Between Two Ferns: The Movie, High Flying Bird, Fighting With My Family, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Stuber 

The Top 20 Best New Shows of 2019

 

2019 has been in the books for a while now but I’ve been ruminating on my list of favourite new shows since the year ended and tried catching up on all the stuff I missed so I thought I’d do a rundown of what I consider the best new shows of 2019 (far superior to every list you’ve of best overall shows you’ve certainly read by now and that’s probably just some combination of Fleabag and Barry). You can also check out last year’s list to see what shows inevitably fell off the rails with their second seasons, and what shows I was completely wrong about, like Jack Ryan.

In that regard, 2019 was pretty much on par if not better than 2019. I absolutely fell in love with most of the shows in the top 20 this year, and so many of them are original works of a scope and scale most TV viewers probably couldn’t even fathom a few short years ago. This year’s list is full of great and ambitious shows and miniseries of many different kinds of genres. And there’s so much I didn’t have time to see! Before we get started, shout out to some shows that are still on my watch list, like The Witcher, The Politician, Love Death & Robots, Fosse/Verdon, Pen15. If I missed aything else, make sure to scold me in the comments!

Without further adieu, here are 20 of my favourite new shows of 2019!

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20. The Twilight Zone (CBS All-Access)

Jordan Peele’s revival of The Twilight Zone was a mixed bag. Some of the episodes were really bad and half-baked, but several rose above the bar and showed the potential of what this show could be in 2019. I thought they touched on something interesting with the meta commentary in “Blurryman”, for instance, and “A Traveler” was so weird and creepy it felt like it was ready to be produced for The X-Files (after all, it was written by Glen Morgan). Plus even some of the worst episode still had the novelty of attracting great guest stars, thanks to Peele’s pull, and that alone makes most of these worth watching. There are some kinks to be straightened out, but with Black Mirror only producing a handful of episodes at a time, the return of good old anthology-driven horror and sci fi television is welcome.

19. The Chef Show (Netflix)

We all need comfort food television. In my case, I take that expression a tad more literally. The show that filled that need for me in 2019 the most was Jon Favreau’s docuseries spinoff of his 2014 passion film Chef, and just like that movie, the docuseries version is just an overindulgent, elaborate excuse for him to go around eating while accosting his famous celebrity friends. Highlights include a roundtable with some of the Avengers, a visit to Goop headquarters where we find out Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t really know what’s going on with all this Marvel business, and an episode where he eats several pizzas at Robert Rodriguez’s house. I’m anxiously anticipating the next volume of this show where Favreau inevitably gets a stew going with The Mandalorian’s Carl Weathers and Baby Yoda at the Mos Eisley Cantina.

18. Whiskey Cavalier (ABC)

You won’t see many broadcast TV entries on this list, but I bet everyone reading this last has one or two guilty pleasures they love to watch from the Big 4. Mine in 2019 was the short-lived Whiskey Cavalier, a spy thriller/action dramedy starring Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan. While the show only lasted 13 episodes before ABC cancelled it, they managed to make good use of the network’s money travelling to exotic locations all over Europe and really doing a good job of creating endearing characters that I think could have gone places if they would have gotten another shot. Unfortunately all we’ll ever have is this one season, which ends on a goddamn cliffhanger, so probably don’t bother watching it.

17. NWA Powerrr (Youtube) and AEW Dynamite (TNT)

Listen, nowhere in the rules does it say I can’t talk about wrestling on this list.

Like most lapsed wrestling fans, I occasionally tune in to see what WWE has to offer only to groan at the sordid state of affairs on RAW and Smackdown before moving on with my life, but 2019 offered two very distinct and different reasons to get excited about wrestling. The first was AEW, a new WCW-like promotion with money and enthusiasm behind it that started the year making huge promises to wrestling fans and wound up delivering on those promises big time in the fall, with a new weekly show called Dynamite that offers a balanced mix of recognizable faces (such as Chris Jericho, the promotion’s first champion, The Rhodes brothers and Jon Moxley, formerly Dean Ambrose in WWE) and indy stars you’ll almost instantly get excited about like Kenny Omega, The Lucha Bros and Orange Cassidy. Almost every episode has hit it out of the park with great exciting matches.

But if you want something a little more traditional, more old school, you don’t even need a cable subscription as Billy Corgan (yes, that Billy Corgan) has brought 80’s style studio wrestling back with NWA Powerrr, a weekly, pre-taped Youtube show that’s fun and refreshing and completely ridiculous. To paint you a picture, the most over guy on the show is currently The Question Mark, a terrible wrestle in a mask who is comedically overpowered thanks to the power of Mongrovian Karate and who has cleanly beaten some of the company’s biggest stars in the show’s short existence. But there’s also some legitimate wrestling in this 45-50 minute Youtube show, thanks to talent such as Nick Aldis, James Storm, Thunder Rosa, Colt Cabana and even the goddamn Rock & Roll Express, still lighting it up in their 60s.

I can’t believe I’m excited excited about wrestling in this day and age, but these two shows give us more than enough reasons to be.

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16. Doom Patrol (DC Universe)

Full disclosure, I’m not that far into the first season of Doom Patrol yet, but what I’ve seen in the first few episodes is enough to earn it a spot on the list. It’s a superhero team up show that has the charm of a Legends of Tomorrow with great acting from the likes of Matt Bomer, Alan Tudyk and Brendan Fraser and a good pace for episodes coming in at an hour a pop. I’ll try to add more when I’m done with the season but this is an easy recommend even after just the pilot and their introduction in Titans last year.

15. Living With Yourself (Netflix)

Netflix once again killed it with these limited run dramedies with great concepts, and one of them was Living With Yourself, which gave us not one, but two great Paul Rudd performances, as he plays a man down on his luck, in a rut both professionally and in his marriage, who goes to an expensive spa and accidentally comes out cloned. Much like another show which we’ll talk about later on this list, Living With Yourself tackle some deep existential issues from interesting creators, and that’s probably the best stuff coming out of Netflix these days.

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14. Good Omens (Amazon Prime Video)

One of the big benefits of Peak TV is that we finally have the medium and space to adapt work from some of the more original, unique authors of the world such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Fans of their novel, Good Omens, would have been hard pressed envisioning how it would have worked on screen even just a few years ago. And while it took a lot of work from Gaiman himself to get it done, the end result (a 6 episode miniseries in Amazon) is something that even the ficklest of his fans would be proud of, as the show greatly captures the charm and character of the novel. Not to give Neil all the credit though, because this probably wouldn’t have worked without the perfect Aziraphale and Crowley, which Michael Sheen and David Tennant respectively are.

13. Dickinson (Apple TV Plus)

A lot of people didn’t give Apple TV+ the time of day when it launched in November, and honestly, I get it. Apple’s new streaming service launched with a paltry four original shows, and with a weekly release schedule it was tough to know how they would all turn out. Spoiler alert for this and the next two spots on the list: they turned out mostly pretty good.

Starting off this trio is a reimagining of the life of Emily Dickinson (played by the infinitely charming Hailee Steinfeld) which stands out thanks to the fact that it drops any 19th century pretense and treats it like a spoof of a teen drama with just enough irony in the writing and presentation. The old timey accents are few and far between, the issues the show tackles are modern, there’s contemporary music and even some great, unexpected guest spots from the likes of John Mulaney, Jason Mantzoukas and Wiz Khalifa, of all people. Plus at less than 30 minutes a pop, the show flies smoothly and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

12. For All Mankind (Apple TV Plus)

The second best of Apple’s first batch of shows is the alt-history sci fi show from the creator of Battlestar Galactica and Outlander, Ron D. Moore, which posits what the space race would have looked like in the 70s if it were the Soviet Union that first landed on the moon. Spoiler alert: if you’re a fan of space, it turns out it would have looked a lot better, as the show depicts America constantly chasing the Russians by training women to become astronauts and making a permanent moon base, and it even teases some crazy things for the already confirmed second season. If you’re a fan of “what if” style historical fiction and are longing for more space drama, then this is a must watch. The only reason this isn’t the best of Apple’s shows (or even Moore’s) is that it focuses way too much on the family drama aspects. While I understand they wanted to tackle the social aspects of it between women’s rights and LGBTQ issues, I could stand to see a lot of these hour+ long episodes cut down by 10 or 15 minutes by removing some of the space wives scenes. But maybe that’s just me.

The Morning Show

11. The Morning Show (Apple TV Plus)

When I first started thinking about this list a couple of months ago, I didn’t think I would be singing the praises of Apple’s big budget Jennifer Aniston vehicle and The Newsroom knockoff. After all, this seemed like a show formed by committee or focus group rather than organically. The cynic in me imagines they had the stars and the idea to tackle current events before they had an actual show in mind. Let’s get a former friend, the guy from The Office (but he’s despicable now) and Reese Witherspoon with the southern charm dialed up to 11, and we’ll figure out the plot later. But then I actually sat down and binged the damn thing over my holiday break and it turns out this insane mess of a show somehow works? Don’t get me wrong, all those things are probably true. This feels like an excuse to pay big stars and disseminate Tim Cook’s personal views to the audience more than any reason to make a show. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained, as the show toes this line between good and bad rather impressively. Every episode has no less than a handful of scenes where the music wells up and a character delivers a dramatic speech about the sad state of affairs. The show is all in on tackling Me Too and almost comedically borrows from aspects of various aspects of the movement and individual cases even though it all winds up being super serious and sad. And easily the best part of the show is Billy Cruddup as the network executive, Cory Ellison, who seems to be in a completely different show. Every time he’s on screen he’s emoting like he’s The Joker and making insane quips. It’s like they knew the entire show was horse shit and chose to break it up with diametrically opposed levity.

But like I said, somehow, all of this works, and I can’t wait for more of it. Much like with their products, Apple got me. I thought I was out, but then they pulled me back in.

10. Euphoria (HBO)

If you thought it was weird that we’d made it halfway through the list without talking about anything on HBO, don’t, because they’re going to dominate the second half. Maybe it’s the added pressure from all these new streaming services, maybe they’re just always this good and we forget, but 2019 was a hell of a year for the network. But while everyone is talking about all the other shows we’re going to list in the top 10, the one that seemed to fly under the radar was Euphoria, perhaps because it’s not for the faint of heart. This is a show that’s constantly in your face about high school kids having sex and doing drugs, tackling very contemporary issues of identity and addiction and intimacy. It doesn’t feel like one of these shows made by someone two generations older than the subjects or the target audience. It feels like a raunchy, super gritty version of what might happen to the girl from Eighth Grade three years later. It’s meant to make you uncomfortable, and it succeeds greatly in that regard.

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9. Evil (CBS)

Every fall, I sample all of the Big 4 networks’ new dramas hoping to find something decent to add to my viewing lineup, and while I mostly wind up disappointed, there’s usually one standout. This year’s standout might be one of the better new network shows in a few years. Evil follows Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), a forensic psychologist who takes a job with David Acosta (Mike Colter), a priest in training looking for someone to help him distinguish the real religious mysteries from the fake. This “X-Files but with religion” premise is great, but where the show shines the most is in how it bucks all of the trends you’d expect from a CBS drama. It has procedural elements but also a really great central mystery that flows seamlessly through the episodes. It’s about coworkers teaming up to solve crimes but none of them are cops. They have a ton of sexual tension but somehow it feels earned. There’s a family drama aspect but it’s really well developed and doesn’t feel obtrusive to the story. And the best part of the show is the Big Bad, played by Michael Emerson, who may or may not be the devil and whose subplots so far have included dating Kristen’s mom to fuck with her, creating an incel army and indoctrinating children through addictive Christmas jingles. This show is wild and great, completely in spite of the fact that it’s on CBS.

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8. The Boys (Amazon Prime Video)

Based on the kinds of shows we got in the superhero genre this year, it feels like The Boys would have been the perfect show for around 2017. A show that bucks trends and tropes in the superhero genre, where everyone is an antihero or a straight up villain, with themes of corporate greed and jingoism and no limit to the violence it’s willing to portray sounds pretty cool, if you ignore how Doom Patrol and Watchmen did all these things and more but about 100x times better, and without holding back way too much because you know you have half a dozen more volumes of comics you can adapt. That might sound overly harsh, because I did really like The Boys, just look at its position on this list. It’s just that after a few months of it being off the air have made me almost completely forget about it, it feels like a distant memory and a show more suited for years past. But it’s a smartly written, entertaining as hell show and I’m sure the people behind it were watching what was happening on those other shows I mentioned, and I expect it to evolve, to tackle more pressing themes, to be as good as it needs to be, because I did enjoy it a hell of a lot at the time.

7. Russian Doll (Netflix)

As mentioned with Living With Yourself, high concept Netflix dramedies just keep getting better and better. The best one in 2019 was easily Russian Doll, which is basically a modern day version of Groundhog Day with a much bigger emphasis on death. This might seem like a concept that’s been well mined in media over the years, but the show breathes a lot of new life into it thanks centrally to a wonderful performance from Natasha Lyonne. But the show is also wonderfully funny, and the people behind it have a keen attention to detail that make the eight episode first season flow nicely, giving us a satisfying conclusion even though the show has been renewed. I’m curious to see what more they can get out of this concept, but I have more than enough faith that they can pull it off after season 1.

6. The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)

What can I say about The Righteous Gemstones that can’t be summarized by this music video from the show?

If I can’t sell you on an HBO Danny McBride comedy that features Walton Goggins doing all of that, then I don’t know what else to tell you.

5. What We Do In The Shadows (FX)

One of my favourite movies of this decade is What We Do In The Shadows, a mockumentary style comedy from Flight of the Conchords‘ Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi (before it was cool to like Taika Waititi) that follows a group of vampires as they lead rather mundane lives in and around Wellington, New Zealand. The concept is great on its own but Clement and Waititi are incredible comedic minds, so it winds up being probably the second best comedy of the decade (after The Other Guys, in case you were curious). And you can tell it’s a world they both love playing around in, because this one indie film has sparked a whole cinematic universe, including the show of the same name we’re talking about here, following a different house of vampires, this time going around their business on Staten Island in New York. And against most measurable logic, the show winds up being just about as good as the movie. Perhaps it’s the perfect chemistry from the cast, the involvement of Waititi and Clement, who write and/or direct on many of the episodes, or just how mineable a concept like this. Vampires putzing around a city that doesn’t care that they’re weird is great, but there are added layers, like the insecurities of all the characters, or how one human character, Guillermo, desperately wants to become a vampire but his masters won’t let him. It’s a much needed evolution for the mockumentary style, and the irony that’s given to it from the people that are making it is perfect.

4. I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)

Much like with Gemstones, my infatuation with this Netflix show can mostly be explained with a single sketch from one of the first episodes:

If you couldn’t stop laughing watching that, congratulations, you understand my sense of humour. If not, that’s fair, but you’re missing out on a great steering wheel sketch comedy show filled with premises like this that were too wacky and off the wall for Saturday Night Live (literally, most of these are rejected SNL sketches from when Robinson worked there).

3. The Mandalorian (Disney+)

If you need proof for how crazy 2019 was for pop culture and media, look no further than Star Wars. This year gave is three major entries into the franchise, including a great third-person action-adventure game with a solid story, a wildly divisive movie that concluded the Skywalker saga (in case you’re wondering, I thought Rise of Skywalker sucked), and, as it turns out, my third favourite new show of the year, The Mandalorian. The reason this is crazy is because there are so many reasons why we shouldn’t like this show. It’s slow-paced, nothing really happens, it’s overly reliant on nostalgia, it has a lot of filler and bottle episodes despite only consisting of eight episodes, mostly under 40 minutes each, and if I’m being really honest, as good as it looks, where they spent all the money they supposedly had for the first season is questionable, because aspects of it should look better.

But I can’t help but love it. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the unquestionably adorable Baby Yoda, but it’s also that so many aspects of the show line up perfectly for me. For instance, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni do an incredible job of creating a spaghetti western in space. We’re used to describing Star Wars as a space Western, we’re used to seeing Westerns revived and modernized in different settings, but for these two to take a mostly dead film genre and successfully apply it to the biggest media franchise of all time without compromising the story they wanted to tell, speaks volumes to their dedicating to their craft and their skill as writer/directors. Everyone was too busy gawking at Baby Yoda or complaining about the show’s pace to realize what Favreau and Filoni achieved here. Because I think The Mandalorian spells a new era for Star Wars, as we wrap up the Skywalker Saga. It foretells of an era where we can have smaller, more focused stories in this universe that don’t need to rely on cataclysmic, universe-shattering events and yet feel like they fit perfectly into this far, far away galaxy. They’re basically creating a new canon of Extended Universe stories, and that’s incredibly exciting.

Also, look at this fucking adorable thing. Just look at him!

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2. Chernobyl (HBO)

Miniseries of the caliber of Chernobyl aren’t anything new. HBO has been doing them as long as they’ve been making scripted television, and prior to that they were pretty common when the broadcast networks reigned supreme. But the golden age of the limited series we’re currently in is different. There are more networks than ever before making miniseries, they’re all willing to throw crazy resources at them, high quality actors are doing them without worrying about how doing a TV show might be perceived, and, every year, the top of the class consistently feels like it’s as good as any moving coming out. A decade or two ago, Chernobyl wouldn’t be a high-caliber, serious miniseries. It would probably be a mediocre action movie with a bloated budget (spoiler alert: one miniseries on this list literally was exactly this ten years ago). Or maybe a saccharin, middle-of-the-road drama that fell out of public memory as soon as it left theatres because it didn’t have the time it needed to get audiences to relate to the stories and characters.

And I don’t ever want to see that version of Chernobyl, because the five-hour episodic version is so much better. This format allows the writers and directors so much more opportunity to tell these stories properly and memorably, without having to worry about any of the headaches that come with making theatrical films. Any filmmaker that still insists that film is the superior medium, that there isn’t at the very least parity between film and TV, should be strapped down and forced to watch Chernobyl (or, if you prefer, Fosse/Verdon, Escape at Dannemora, When They See Us or any number of other recent miniseries that are just as good), because I’m kind of over these overstuffed movies that are always too long and yet still feel rushed and as if they don’t have enough time to fully tell their stories. And yes, I’m looking directly at Martin Scorsese and The Irishman, because anyone who watches it and Chernobyl and tells me The Irishman is the superior product is simply blinded by their nostalgia of when Scorsese used to make stories that actually felt modern and relevant.

I realize I’m using this as a platform to adjudicate the state of film and television rather than talk about the actual quality of this particular miniseries, but it’s been something that’s been on my mind ever since I saw Chernobyl earlier in 2019 and I truly feel as if this is the show that people will point to (along with a few others) when discussing the tipping point that led us to this parity between film and TV, and that seems like a great legacy to attribute to Craig Mazin’s wonderful miniseries.

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1. Watchmen (HBO)

I’m admittedly a newer fan of Watchmen. I read the comic in the lead up to the premiere of the show and I was more excited about Damon Lindelof’s involvement than wary about someone trying to adapt such a highly regarded book. But even so, Watchmen completely destroyed all my expectations and gave us one of the greatest single seasons in television history. A show that honours its source material by tackling important modern day issues, by not being afraid to criticize that source material and by giving us something completely unique and so fully realized. I will remember the arc of Hooded Justice and how Lindelof gave a new and unique meaning to that character for a long time. I will remember the Dr. Manhattan twist, the pitch perfect portrayal of Laurie by Jean Smart, the incredible weirdness of Adrian Veidt’s arc, and goddamn Lube Man. Not only is Watchmen the best new show of the year, it made a really good case for being one of the best shows of the decade.

The New Pope Episode 1 Review [Season Premiere]

There are a lot of things that drew me to The Young Pope when it premiered on HBO three years ago. Jude Law, first and foremost, but also how the show oozed with style (above just all the “this pope fucks” memes and whatnot), and how creator/director Paolo Sorrentino promised a sort of winking irony and satire with how he handled the papacy and themes of religion and power at large. But more than anything, Sorrentino seemed to have his finger directly on the pulse of current events. Despite the show being conceived years prior and airing in Europe in the fall of 2016, it seemed to be almost predictive of how that fall turned out for American politics. The idea of a populist, megalomaniacal narcissist and outsider infiltrating a sacrosanct institution and, on purpose or not, upending it and tearing it down from within may seem quaint after nearly an entire term of trump (and to be fair, Lenny Belardo is certainly no donald trump), but at the time it was brilliant and prescient. I’m still not even sure of Sorrentino did it on purpose, and yet it all over-delivered.

So, naturally, I couldn’t be more excited to see what Sorrentino had up his sleeve for the long-anticipated sequel series, The New Pope. A direct sequel to its predecessor, the premise of the show involves Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII, born Lenny Belardo, interacting with the pope who replaced him, Pope John Paul III, played by John Malkovich. The trailers have been pretty vague and even after the premiere it seems unclear how that will play out, as Lenny starts the show in an induced coma and in need of a heart transplant. This unprecedented situation of a pope lying somewhere between life and death sets up the premise for this new miniseries, as the Cardinals must choose a new pope, one who will straighten things up and fix the perceived problems with Pius’s tenure and get things back to normal.

However this isn’t immediately thrust on the shoulders of Malkovich’s character, in fact he only shows up at the very end as a compromise between cardinals. In fact, the show decides to take an extended detour before landing on Cardinal John Brannox as the heir to Pius’s throne, and that detour winds up being a hell of a ride.

The first thing The New Pope does is to remind us that the show is just as much about Cardinal Angelo Voiello (Silvio Orlando) as it is about any of these popes. You’ll recall him from the first series as the Vatican’t secretary of state and manipulate string-puller who struggled to reel in the enigma that was Lenny Belardo after a lifetime of being used to getting his way as the  Vatican’s de facto leader. When Lenny falls into a coma, he decides it’s finally his time to come out of the shadows and submits himself for consideration as the new pope. But he doesn’t have the support he needs, as the conclave is hilariously split between him and Cardinal Hernandez, who for some reason looks exactly like him and is also played by Orlando (sans trademark mole on his cheek). I guess the joke here is that all machiavellian, Napoleanesque figures with delusions of grandeur kind of look alike, but the idea of having two Silvio Orlandos on this season is a pleasing notion.

In any case, up against the wall and facing an inevitable defeat, Voiello hatched a plan to elect Cardinal Viglietti (Marcello Romolo) as a puppet pope. You might remember him  from the first season as the confessor of the Vatican, which comes into play later when, in a massive miscalculation on Voiello’s part, Viglietti realizes he has untold power and uses it to make true the prophecies and teachings of his namesake saint Francis by opening the doors to the vatican to refugees, donating the church’s coffers to the poor and forcing his Cardinals to live modest lives by giving up their jewels and living in poverty. He even changes all the passwords on the Vatican’s bank accounts. What’s more, he’s sort of an extremist when it comes to homosexuality and sexual acts in general, as he suggests installing cameras in bathroom stalls to root out the masturbaters. He’s the antithesis of Lenny Belardo, but in the opposite ways for what Voiello wanted.

Putting aside the great storytelling here about a half-baked plan that blows up in Voiello’s face, there are great parallels here to the real life pope. It’s incredibly on the nose thanks to Sorrentino naming him Francis, but it’s also uncanny how Romolo manages to look more like Pope Francis than even Jonathan Pryce from Netflix’s The Two Popes.

Anyway, facing losing his job and even being defrocked, and threatened by Francis’ ultimate knowledge as the Vatican’s confessor (in his own words, he knows things no pope should know), Voiello has a fixer to whom we were introduced earlier in the episode murder the pope all while he and Hernandez agree to let choice #3 behind them in the conclave become pope. Enter the aforementioned John Brannox, who makes an appearance just in time for us to also see Lenny in bed, still in a coma, but moving his finger. The Francis II detour has been complete, and the show has dovetailed back to the premise we were promised.

Surely this won’t once again blow up in Voiello’s face.

It remains to be seen how the show winds up delivering on all of this show. Will Lenny wake up and play the Pope Benedict-style role of a former pope in absentia? Will he be some sort of omnipresent narrator to the audience, or will he manifest as a force ghost of sorts to Voiello and/or Brannox? The point of the premiere was to tell us that this is a show about Cardinal Voiello pulling the strings and how far he’s willing to go. But he still has a conscience. Will Lenny be there to scold him? Either way, this detour did an incredible job of making things more interesting as well as lightening the tone and reminding us that Sorrentino is here to have fun and tell an important story.

In fact, it’s utterly impressive how swiftly the show transitions from the style of The Young Pope to something different for this show. The opening sequence shows us a bunch of nuns behaving badly after lights out, smoking under a neon cross. It leans right into the memes established from the show’s first season. And we get the out-of-place music and over-the-top style all throughout the first act, but that slowly dissipates as everything kind of devolves into more or less a comedy of errors. Once Voiello props up Viglietti, the tone of the show completely shifts. Ironically, it becomes less self-serious as it begins to center around the more serious character of Voiello. Voiello tries to distance himself from the mockery that he considered to the be Pius XIII papacy, but only ventures out further into ridiculousness as he installs a near literal caricature of the real-life current pope.

Of course, by the end of the episode, Sorrentino very clearly tells us that this isn’t what The New Pope will be about. Pope Francis II is dispensed of (although the lasting nature of his short yet disruptive papacy remains to be seen), Voiello is seemingly back in control, possibly alongside his doppelganger, and a new pope is once again chosen, this time, based on the trailers, of a mild-mannered but very distinct personality. What kind of pope John Brannox will be is anyone’s guess.

The first episode of The New Pope does a lot of place-setting, but there are still many exciting questions left to be answered. And despite all of that setup, despite how it dovetails right back to where we started, it still offers a very satisfying, highly entertaining and entirely surprising story, as it lifts a side character from the first season up to the forefront and satirically mocks what might happen if we got an actual intellectual extremist in the pope’s office. Sorrentino takes things to one extreme in order to slingshot us back to the “normal” of the show, and immediately shows us that this show, this premise hasn’t lost a step and still has a relevant story left to tell. I shouldn’t be surprised that The New Pope is already my most anticipated weekly watch, but somehow the premiere still managed to do just that in a delightful way.

The Most Brutal Lines From Veep S07E06: ‘Oslo’

You can sense the urgency in this, the penultimate episode of Veep. Oddly enough, not in moving the plot forward, as “Oslo” takes an unexpected detour across the Atlantic and away from the Democratic primaries in order to award Selina a Nobel peace price (or something in its vicinity), but rather in terms of the topics and ripped-from-the-headlines current events it wants to tackle before wrapping up the series in next week’s finale.

And the results were oddly prescient for a show that wrapped filming months ago, as the episode manages to poke fun at both the Julian Assange saga by temporarily making Selina a fugitive from Interpol and an alleged war criminal, hunkered down in an Embassy under less than ideal conditions with the threat of imprisonment looming outside, as well the rise in measles outbreaks linked to the anti-vaxxer movement, and in this case, specifically to Jonah Ryan, who spreads Chicken Pox in the pattern of a dick all across the eastern seaboard as well as to his father, who winds up dead by his own hand. Both of these stories have recently popped up in the news, making the fact that the show was able to sneak these references into their penultimate episode (not to mention make them feel important and not just throwaway gags they were just checking off a list) all the more impressive.

Almost as impressive is the continued cavalcade of guest stars in this final season. After seeing the likes of Rhea Seehorn and Andy Daly join the cast in pitch-perfect roles, “Oslo” saw guest spots from Thomas Lennon as a CBS executive (in a subplot, by the way, which included a hilarious transition for Mike into network TV anchor as he continues to fumble his way up the ladder) and Michael McKean, who falls into that Peter MacNicol bracket of amazing veteran actors who instantly fit into the show and make you wonder why they weren’t around any sooner. McKean plays Governor Valentine of Iowa, introduced in a scene where he knocks Dan and Richard down a peg for their meteoric political rise, and pretty much written off in the next when he contracts the shingles after his visit with the Chicken Pox-infected Ryans, forcing him to resign and making Richard the governor and a superdelegate who will likely have to decide next week who becomes his party’s nominee for president (or, as I predicted last week, somehow stumbles into the presidency himself and saves America).

I don’t know if any of this week’s developments will factor in to next week’s finale, as Selina takes a step forward and two steps back, like she always does, and Jonah continues his fall into further depravity, as he always does, but it’s a marvel to watch a show ostensibly still in its prime go out on its own terms, still firing on all cylinders. The proof is in the pudding, as you’ll see below with all the great lines from “Oslo!”


 

  • Selina: “I want tosound like Bono trying to impress his own reflection in the mirror.”
  • Minna/Selina: “So my last three lovers are complaining that my dirty talk is both incessant and soporific.” “Maybe you should let them choke you.” “You think they would rather choke me than listen to me talk?” “I can only speak for myself.”
  • Keith/Selina: “[The drone strike] was classified until somebody on your staff clicked on Asian girls bound and gagged.” “Oh Ben… Or Kent… Or Leon… Or Marjorie..”
  • Amy: “Your anti-vaccination message is bringing together an unheard mix of Orthodox Jews, uneducated fringe conspiracists and kamboucha-douching private school moms.”
  • Gary: “The menu has been an atrocity. The guests are vegan and the president won’t eat anything without a face.”
  • Minna: “I thought you were talking about your daughters wedding to your homosexual doppelganger?”
  • Selina: “As the former President of the United States, truth and justice can gargle my balls.”
  • Dan/Richard: “Last night I tried to find one non-chain restaurant to eat at and Yelp basically told me to go Fudrucker myself.” “Sounds like a settings issue.”
  • Governor Valentine (Michael McKean) to Dan: “Save it, Manhattan date rape mystery.”
  • Ben/Selina: “I could be dead by the time you get out of here.” “No offense Ben, but that could be like tonight.” “God willing.”
  • Selina/Minna: “Minna, you don’t go to prison for not being the head of the IMF.” “Just the prison of unmet potential.” “Go sit in the corner, Minna!”
  • Amy/Jonah: “Didn’t you have chicken pox as a child? Or were you too busy bedwetting and cutting fuckholes in watermelons?” “That only works with fleshy melons.”
  • Jonah: “I hate you so much I could walk into a supermarket and shoot everybody.”
  • Minna/Gary: “Selina, if you go to prison you will not have your Gary to clean up after you.” “No, I’ll be there.”
  • Kent: “For polling purposes you’re practically a generic white male.”
  • Selina: “I feel like the grim reaper just dropped his scythe and started eating me out.”
  • Valentine: “Jonah Ryan has as much chance at becoming president as a stack of retarded raccoons in a trench coat, but if anyone is crawling out of our cesspool of a state to become his Ag. Sec it’s going to be this pigfucker.”
  • Selina and the Georgian Dictator: “Chivalry is not dead.” “No, her name was Svetlana and she’s definitely dead.”
  • Selina: “Call Leon tell him to get his dick out of whatever homeless woman froze in front of the hotel.”
  • Beth: “Jonah and I don’t want any more kids until I can get my cake pop business off the ground. And we can do genetic testing to make sure they’re not born dead.”
  • Richard/Jonah: “Make sure his nose is wet.” “What?” No, that’s for dogs.”
  • Jeff: “I can’t believe you gave him chicken pox, I always had you pegged as an AIDS guy.”
  • Kent/Selina: “Peggy Noonan has a column about Babar and American exceptionalism.” “Oh but she’s a dumb cunt.”

The Most Brutal Lines From Veep S07E05: ‘Super Tuesday’

It’s hard to believe that after tonight’s “Super Tuesday”, there are only two episodes ever left of Veep. Not only because I really can’t imagine a world without a show as hilarious, witty, poignant and take-no-prisoners as it is, but also because, well, it doesn’t feel as if much as happened this season. It’s mostly been business as usual for the show and its vast array of incompetent bureaucrat characters and other than some maneuvering and position it doesn’t seem like the season has really accomplished that much, despite the fact that something like a year has probably passed between the season premiere, where Selina Meyer announces her campaign, and this episode, as Super Tuesdays usually happen early in the spring.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily a criticism as I like spending time with these characters and I don’t think it’s ever been the case that I haven’t laughed hysterically at a given episode of the show, but it’s just remarkable to fathom. In a way, though, the slow-turning wheels of the American political system is kind of this show’s motto.

What’s more, I actually feel like I finally got a glimpse of what this show’s endgame might be like, and funny enough that glimpse came in the episode’s C-story. Richard Splett started the season working for both the Ryan and Meyer campaigns, left both to randomly become mayor of some hick town in Iowa, and ended this episode as the Lieutenant governor of the state after accidentally outing a bunch of corruption. I can totally see a world where Richard somehow winds up becoming president by accident. He’s secretly the smartest character on this show, he’s genuine and earnest, which is what people say they want out of a presidential candidate, and with Dan at his side it feels like almost the perfect compromise for a show where the thesis statement has always been about how terrible everyone in politics truly is.

And after all, making Selina president seems too obvious and too good a fate for that character, and even this show can’t be so cynical as to make Jonah fucking Ryan president In fact the show seems to be setting both of them up for big falls, as Selina’s arc in this episode went from trying to hide her ex-husband’s embezzlement to trying to ignore the that she accidentally had the Chinese kill Andrew. And as for Jonah, well, they keep digging and ever-deepening hole of depravity for him, as it’s revealed that Beth is actually his half-sister and not just his stepsister, not to mention pregnant with their inbred child.

Veep is cynical and unrelenting, but it would be a hell of a twist for it to end in a semi-positive place with someone like Richard Splett as the new president. But with only two episodes left I’m sure we’re in for plenty of surprises.


 

Brutal Takedown of the Week: Last week, I dedicated the brutal takedown of the week to what might be the final Jeff Kane appearance as Peter MacNicol returned to deliver some doozies. I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer the same reverence this week to Dan Bakkendahl’s Roger Furlong, arguably an even better ringer for Veep than MacNicol has been. Furlong already made a brief appearance earlier in the season, but it’s in this episode he gets to shine, delivering no fewer than four great lines as well as setting up his trusty sad sack aide Will (Nelson Franklin) for a vicarious fifth (not to mention how both he and Amy slam Jonah by referring to him as “Congressman Slender Man”):

  • Furlong: “Holy shit, Bruckheimer, when you get an abortion you’re supposed to leave the mangled fetus at the clinic, not staple it to the skeleton of a gay condor and run it for president.”
  • Furlong to Beth: “What Saudi prince’s rape dongeon did you finger-trolley your way out of?”
  • Furlong: “Chances are you’ll still get assassinated but the killer – may god guide his hand – will just have to work a little harder.”
  • Furlong: “Have a good weepy slide down the shower wall this evening.”
  • Will/Furlong: “Well I was hoping to finish my passion project.” “Which is?” “Rerouting my urethra to the back of my balls so that I have to sit to pee like a real girl.”

Best of the Rest:

  • Selina wants to leak some of her death threats, like “someone should put a bullet in your shriveled old face.” “No, just make up some death threats that are nice.”
  • Marjorie/Selina/Gary: “This is the face of clinical depression.” “With the hair of a mental patient.” “My kingdom for her beret.”
  • Selina: “Well this has been a dry fuck on a sandy beach.”
  • Selina: “First of all call, it the Washington post like a non-asshole. And I don’t know anything about foreign interference. And stop staring at my like I’m some sort of teenage runaway that you just strangled.”
  • Selina: “Just give [the faith money] to one of those gay-converting Baptist colleges to fund a statue of a gold-plated Jesus fucking a triceratops.”
  • Jonah/Beth: “I told Beth that we would go to Arkansas so she could give me a handjob in a hot spring.” “It’s my birthday.”
  • Beth/Jonah: “I didn’t get Clay vaccinated because it causes autism. And now he just has a little bit of autism.” “When I was a kid they said best case scenario was I had autism and fucking look at me now.”
  • Selina: “What are they giving away free Tommy Bahama dick cozy’s?
  • Ben: “Me so complicit me go jail long time.”
  • Gary/Selina: “I have your estrogen patch.” “You wear it. Maybe you’ll grow some hair on your vagina.”
  • Doctor/Dan: “You brought a woman into my clinic to have her pregnancy terminated.” “Could you be a little more specific?” “I’m actually worried she might have a thyroid issue because of her eyes.” “Oh! Amy. Reminds me I gotta Apple Pay her for her half.”
  • Selina RE Gary: “I don’t think people are gonna buy that a guy who calls vaginas crank em crank ems is gonna be able to pull off some sort of multi million dollar fraud.”
  • Amy/Jonah/Beth: “Is that what a real orgasm feels like?” “Ugh do women have those?” “That’s what I’ve been telling you.”
  • Selina is to meet “the fake real woman from your speech.” Kent: “Just in the nick of time, she was about to be stoned by the local child army.”
  • Richard: “That’s hilarious, a talking company. Where would the mouth even be?”
  • Keith: “Hey now, you’re not a grilled chicken sandwich and a miller light.”
  • Selina: “When do the new Kent’s come out?”
  • Kent addressing Mike’s young child: “Chief strategist Kent Davidson, how do you do.”

The Most Brutal Lines from Veep S07E04: ‘South Carolina’

We’re far enough into Veep‘s final season that discussing how the show has chosen to tackle the trump era of politics is starting to sound like a broken record, but last night’s episode, “South Carolina”, deserves another look from this perspective. The episode veers violently into the kind of cynical politics that have have dominated Washington since 2016 in more ways than one, and more severely than the three previous episodes of the season. In fact, I’ve been struggling with the notion that a transformative trump-like figure could exist in this world. Not because I don’t think that someone so self-serving could exist in the Veep universe, but rather due to the fact that just about everyone in this world is already as self-serving and narcissistic as one donald j trump, and this episode shows just how far some of those people are willing to go to get what they want.

In “South Carolina”, Selina Meyer resorts to several shady-ass tactics in order to keep the momentum of her campaign moving forward. Not only does she come very close to supporting police brutality while giving a speech in a black church (something she likely only backs away from in fear of her own safety), but she publicly declares her support for Chinese expansionism in exchange for a big, murky campaign contribution (as well as meddling in the primary) from that nation. In fact, this goes so far that we even find out that Andy Daly’s mild-mannered campaign manager, who has spent the better part of this season so far cheerfully accepting Selina’s disdain, reveals himself to be a Chinese plant.

We accept this kind of cynicism from the Jonah side of the story, and we get it, as Jonah’s campaign manages to steer even further to the right. He winds up giving a speech denouncing math because it was technically invented by Muslims, decreeing that math teachers are terrorists. The looks of horror on the faces of Bill, Teddy and Amy are priceless. Amy winds up leaning into it, as she ends the episode by transforming herself into ersatz Kellyanne Conway (and it’s glorious). But that’s not all, as this comes after an entire episode of Jonah trying to drop out of the campaign and exchange his endorsement for a cabinet position, a deal no one wants to take, only to find out from his rich uncles that he’s not in the campaign to win it, but instead to gather enough delegates so they can influence policy at the convention and ensure that their prisons remain full of pot smokers (because who wants a private prison with just rapists and murderers?).

Somehow even that manages to stride that line of almost egregious cynicism. But it’s the Selina story that really kind of hits you where it hurts. We know she’ll do whatever it takes to get what she feels is coming to her, so currying the favour of a foreign government probably shouldn’t come as a surprise after all the shady and probably illegal shit we’ve seen her do (it’s even references in every episode prior to this as the show has shined a line on Andrew’s embezzlements). But the way Selina juggles racial politics and foreign election meddling so easily in this episode almost pushes things to far; never mind how she winds up using Dan for sex after he gets her speech balloons just right and then fires him from the campaign.

Between Selina’s despicable behaviour, Jonah diving off the deepest of ends and how seamlessly the show weaves in current events and political issues, this is an all-timer when it comes to Veep’s political cynicism. As this sets up the show’s final arcs, it’ll be curious to see if the show is at all interested in trying to redeem any of these people, or if they’re merely trying to remind us once and for all that they’re all just terrible, hopeless and incorrigible.


Brutal Takedown of the Week: We can’t have an episode with an appearance from Jeff Kane and not highlight Peter MacNicol’s tremendous mastery of the Jonah Ryan takedown. Somehow his character – who only began to appear on the show late in its run, has managed to become one of my favourites with only a handful of appearances. Here he is eviscerating Jonah in one scene (two lines)

Shut the fuck up! When you’re president! I’ll jam my fist up my dickhole and pull out a forty piece danish cutlery set when you’re president.

Selina Meyer is a legitimate candidate, not a human pool skimmer last used to de-spunk a Provincetown hot tub party.

  • Gary wants a bigger role in the campaign. Selina: “What kind of role was your mother thinking of?” “I don’t know, I thought everybody kinda did the same thing.”
  • Bill: “I’m going to go hang myself from a sturdy pipe, and I’m not even going to bother jerking off.”
  • Selina: “You can’t just replace Gary with another lesbian and think I’m not gonna notice.”
  • Marjorie (w/ Selina) on her tea-making skills: “Thank you ma’am, I learned from an Afghani warlord.” “Why don’t we put him on the payroll?” “You killed him in a drone strike.”
  • Marjorie RE Gary: “You’ve been taking fashion advice from a man who dresses like an overgrown ventriloquist dummy.”
  • Kent/Selina: “My polling shows their [non-college educated whites] main wants are jobs education and an adequate safety net…” “Okay, I can speak to that.” “I’m not finished ma’am. To be denied to African Americans.”
  • Ben/Kent: “Lu sent you a message inside Mike.” “A misfortune cookie.”
  • Richard: “When my uncle stole me, I don’t remember exactly where he took me but I do have this recurring dream where I almost find out.”
  • Selina/Ben: “He just fucked me right in the ass.” “Son of a bitch wouldn’t endorse you.” “That too!”
  • Dan: “You want to blow a dog whistle in a black church? That’s like blowing a rape whistle while you’re raping somebody.”
  • Selina: “Honeydew? If I want to pretend to be in the CNN green room I would draw a face on Ben’s ass and call it Christiane Amanpour.”
  • Amy: “I should have aborted myself.”
  • Jonah at the beginning of the episode: “Math is a plot invented by the Chinese to make smart Americans feel dumb.”
  • Jonah at the end of the episode: “I just found out from my stupid stepfather-in-law that math was created by Muslims. And we teach this Islamic math to children. Math teachers are terrorists!”
  • Jonah: “Algebra? More like Al Jazeera”
  • Teddy: “I may I’m a registered sex offender but I cannot be apart of this.”
  • Selina: “If we lose it won’t be for a lack of touching people in a Denny’s.”
  • Selina/Ben: “How’s the turnout.” “Much like my prostate, mostly black and much larger than we’d like.”
  • Ben/Selina: “I told you you can’t trust the Chinese, I married enough of them to know that.” “Isn’t your wife Korean?” “Maybe. Fog of war?”
  • Selina/Gary: “Your name will be all over it like Jodie Foster / John Hinkley style.” “Oh my god, I’m obsessed with her.”
  • Andy Daly quoting Selina: “I believe her exact words were ‘if I need another Washington douche I’d go to the M Street Right Aid.”

The Most Brutal Lines from Veep S07E03: ‘Pledge’

As Veep wraps up its run at a time where our contemporary political realities have long surpassed any reasonable semblance of parody, it’s become rather important that Veep at least try and commentate on all of that craziness through its biting, no-punch-pulling lens. Under Armando Iannucci (and during the transitional David Mandel years), this was a show about worthless, lackadaisical beaurocrats running out the clock on a pointless political stepping stone, either on their way to greener pastures or serving penance for past slights. But as it eventually became clear that Selina Meyer was meant for greater things, the show slowly transformed itself, all the while getting more and more ruthless and more and more cynical. Now in its final form, it’s only fitting that Veep embraces the insanity of the current political landscape and translate the current popular versions of things such as white nationalism and misogyny through its own lens of commentary.

The result of that so far this season has mostly bore fruit through the Jonah storyline, as Timothy Simons has long proven to be this show’s ultimate punching bag. Jonah Ryan is stupid, rude, bigoted, ignorant and incompetent, which makes him the perfect poster boy for both this show and its translation of the political landscape, leading to some excellent humour over the course of the last three episodes. But in a surprise twist, by the end of this week’s episode, it’s Selina embracing, at least in part, that mantra, as she breaks down in a debate fumble of her own making and turns it into a resurgent moment as she tells an African-American candidate who can’t stop using her identity as a crutch to “man up,” as she did all the years she had to quietly endure misogyny in order to reach her current status. The people (which, on Veep, share social status with the likes of Jonah Ryan) eat it up and she winds up winning the debate and sinking her political opponents, after the floundering she had to endure over the course of the first two episodes.

It’s an interesting stance for this show to take, tacitly admitting that these steps back are tried and true political maneuvers. Selina is and always has been selfish, her entire existence hinging on the idea that she’s paid her dues and waited her turn to be president, that she’s earned and deserves a run as president. But she’s also always been a bleeding-heart progressive, so for her to quote-unquote turn to the dark side and so easily get a win is as biting a stance for this show to take as anything else it’s ever done. It’s early in the season, and “Pledge” is an admittedly transitional episode that aimed to get Selina from points A and B to C, but I wonder if this is something the show might stick to en route to whatever endgame they have in mind.

But even as a transitional episode, this was as hilarious as the show has been this year, with plenty of material for Selina (I loved her funeral blackball list and kind of wished they mined it for a few more jokes), a great Jonah subplot with a lot of visual humour (including several unfortunate press pics of him at the fair, him eating two different-sized corndogs, and debating a wizard), Richard succeeding a dog as the mayor of an Iowan town, and the perfect setup for next week as the episode ends with Amy getting a call from Teddy asking her to become Jonah’s campaign manager, a job she enthusiastically (and presumably ironically) accepts, likely in order to fuck with Jonah.

And speaking of Amy, she had what’s likely to stand as the most brutal piece of dialog of the season, so without further adieu, let’s get to this week’s best lines from “Pledge”!

Brutal Takedown of the week: Listen, I have shit to do, I can’t copy down every single line of dialog from this show. But I couldn’t help but do it for this epic takedown from Amy, trying to enter an abortion clinic in Iowa facing down a bunch of protesters. I pretty much can’t think of a better way to react in that situation, and from now on this should be the go-to in the abortion debate

You want me to think about the children, you hog fingering fucks? Well I did I think about this, and I cried and, yeah suck my cock, I prayed a little. And here I am! So you can back the fuck off, you hypocritical cunts, before i show up to the piss puddle that is your house and protest your husband wacking it to your daughter’s seventh grade yearbook. That sign’s misspelt.

  • Selina: “It sounds like Dr. Seuss fucked Maya Angelou in the yasmatazz and then filled her all up with snoozeliscuzz.”
  • Selina: “Last thing I need is my picture being taken eating dick-shaped food. I’d rather eat a food-shaped dick.”
  • Richard: “My uncle was a shop steward for the 7-4. Asbestos killed him. Asbestor was the name of their pit bull.”
  • Jonah: “I’m Jonah Ryan and I wanna suck this message’s hot clam.”
  • Teddy/Jonah: “We focus tested the ad and most people are uncomfortable watching a white man kick a black woman in the vagina.” “Well I don’t see vagina colour.”
  • Richard: “On the plus column the undecard debate will be first, which means we’ll have no problem getting out of the parking lot. Oh no, that’s bad news too, it’s stacked parking.”
  • Teddy/Jonah: “You can’t say retarded in front of a reporter.” “Why, was he retarded?”
  • Mike: “Ever since i got it they stopped calling me old guy. Now it’s hat guy.” “It’s fat guy.”
  • Selina: “Look at you! You got chocolate all over your face like a child, but you’re an adult!”
  • Dan’s harrowing abortion knowledge: “Is that the Berkeley VC10? Cause that’s the Shelby Cobra GT of vag vacs!”
  • Selina: “What’s up with the Clubfoot Cuntessa?”
  • Richard: “Novelty mayors are Iowa’s top source of tourism. After tornado chasing, and coming into town to buy Sudafed.”
  • Teddy: “You have to be more PC than a clit ring made out of wheatgrass.”
  • Selina: “I want you to add the Dalai Lama to this list, because i’m going to be the only stiff at my funeral.”
  • Selina: “And this must be Mrs. Ryan. Or do you go by your maiden name, Mrs. Ryan?”
  • Selina/Richard: “But don’t you have to be a dog [to be the mayor]?” “Legally, yes, but it’s unenforceable.”
  • Kent/Selina: “Ma’am, that’s your funeral blackball list.” “And all of you are on it!”

The Most Brutal Lines from Veep S07E02: ‘Discovery Weekend’

Last week’s season premiere of Veep was all about proving that the long-running HBO satire still had a place in the discourse on American politics. Could it be as biting and brutal as it was for its first six seasons, especially after nearly two years off the air?

The answer was an unsurprising and resounding yes, but it was nice to get confirmation that the show wouldn’t spend its final episodes on some sort of tame farewell tour. And while the season’s second episode, “Discovery Weekend”, was probably a little laid back in comparison, the show and its cavalcade of assholes were still firing on most cylinders this week, delivering vicious lines and takedowns on topics including but not limited to the #MeToo movement, women in presidential politics, the (gay) money behind said presidential politics, somehow bulimia, and a lot more.

The episode sees Selina and the campaign visit a major political donor’s weekend getaway where he is set to announce his backing of a single Democratic candidate. That donor is Felix Wade (played by the great William Fitchner), a political power player whose sexual preferences are the worst kept secret in politics (which doesn’t stop Selina from putting her foot in her mouth and accidentally outing him to an unwitting Mike; whose habitual and often forgotten presence now that he’s no longer in the campaign is quickly becoming one of my favourite things about this season) and who has decided to back Selina. Problem is that Tom James (Hugh Laurie) decides to stick his apparently gigantic penis where it doesn’t belong, renewing one of the show’s best will-they-won’t-they love/hate dynamics between him ans Selina. Tom complicates matters by telling Selina he legitimately loves her right before she’s set to deliver a speech that would guarantee her Felix’s money, causing her to stumble and lose ground. He also gets caught by Amy fooling around with his new Amy (the brilliantly cast Rhea Seahorn, who may as well be a clone of Anna Chlumsky’s).

So Selina and the gang spend most of the episode trying to stop Felix from falling too far in love with Tom, all while trying to do something “disruptive” to get his attention, which incidentally leaves them in the dust when Selina introduces Felix to a multiracial senator who Felix winds up back and who Selina describes as her protege (and therefore a perfect candidate to stab her in the back), leaving us in Veep’s favourite territory; right back where we started.

Meanwhile, the Jonah Ryan campaign is going just as well, as his repeated lies about all the women he’s clearly never gone out with come back to haunt him. While Teddy and the rest of his staff ponder what he could have done to offend a number of women, it turns out they’ve all banded together to create the wittingly labeled “#NotMe” movement to out Jonah as a liar and prove they’ve never slept with him. It’s a nice play on words with regards to the #MeToo movement and also bad news for Jonah, seeing as the trump card (I hate myself for that, don’t worry) of his campaign is his misplaced braggadocio.

All of this keeps the wheels moving on the show, but it’s interesting to see things move rather slowly two weeks into this final season. I wonder if we’re going to spend the entire season in the primaries, in order to mimic real life, or if a time jump is in the show’s near future. In any case, that doesn’t stop “Discovery Weekend” from being another great episode, so let’s not waste any more time. Below you’ll find all the great, brutal lines from this week’s episode:

  • Jonah Ryan Dunk of the Week: “Dead-eyed lanterned-jawed one-and-done congresstard” (Jonah: “That could be anyone.”)
  • Furlong: “I would have invited my wife but she’s a squirter and that dress doesn’t look scotch guarded.”
  • Selina/Gary/Selina: “Come on that is idiotic. Is he really that insecure?” “Come on that is idiotic. Is he really that insecure?” “Gary gets it.”
  • Gary/Selina: “Amy’s bulimic.” “It’s about time. And I’ll tell you something, she might want to consider more purging, less binging.”
  • Kent to Amy: “You’ve got some vomit on your mustache.”
  • Selina to Tom, upon meeting his new Amy: “What’s up with Frigid Von Pole-up-her-ass?”
  • Selina/Kent: “He cannot spend another second with Felix without me jammed in between them like the cross piece in an Eiffel Tower threesome.” “MMF, the devil’s threesome.”
  • Selina: “An all female ticket? I don’t think so. The American people work hard for a living, they don’t need that kind of bullshit.”
  • Tom: “I believe the word you’re fumbling for is mansplaining.”
  • Teddy: “Jonah who have you traumatized? Start with the doctor that delivered you.”
  • Teddy: “If anyone asks, tell them you’ve been chemically castrated. It’s very easy to lie about and trust me, nobody checks.”
  • Kent: “In current gay parlance Dan represents somewhere between a wolf and an otter. Some would say a frost otter.”
  • Selina: “Dan fucked YOU? What were you wearing, a full length mirror?”
  • Selina: “I did not spend my entire life defending a woman’s right to choose for you to choose this.”
  • Jonah: “I split the bill on all my dates. Why would I pay for a woman to get fatter?”
  • Selina/Gary and his bath bomb: “Is it gonna explode between my legs and make me cum until I cry?” “I think it’s peppermint.”
  • Ben: “You’re going to be drowning in money so dark it would get shot entering its own apartment.”
  • Selina: “How dare that smooth shitsack cheat on his wife and risk his political future with someone that’s not me.”
  • Jonah/Richard: “I have scoliosis?” “Yes, clearly.”

The Most Brutal Insults from Veep S07E01: ‘Iowa’

In this endless onslaught of sociopolitical turmoil, it’s kind of crazy realize we’ve gone almost two full years without a season of Veep. The last time HBO’s biting political sitcom was on the air, we were only a few months into the trump administration. When season 6 premiered, we were still talking about the travel ban and the administration’s ceaseless attempts to strip Americans of their right to healthcare. We had barely heard of the name “Robert Mueller” and only had vague suspicions of Russian election interference. In retrospect, those were much simpler times. Perhaps the show and its writers felt the same, as the biggest criticism against season 6 was probably that it felt like it didn’t belong. Some attributed it to the show’s age, or how far passed its original premise it had gone, but it’s quite possible that it was because the show didn’t have any relevance or identity as a pre-trump show living in a post-trump world. I’ll defend season 6 as being as funny as any season that came before it, but I’m willing to admit that perhaps its timing and its insistence on being more about an oblivious, out-of-touch ex-president rather than anything more biting was probably detrimental to how it would be remembered.

And that may be one of the reasons why it took showrunner David Mandel and his crew almost a full two years to prepare this, the seventh and final season. This is a show that was birthed from the cynicism of Obama-era obstructionist politics, a show that took as much inspiration from the then sitting VP Joe Biden as it did from its British predecessor, The Thick Of It. Those were much simpler times, where the ineffectual nature of politics could actually be mined for humour. Things are a lot more complicated now. A lot more sinister. And it’s not like the show could simply cast Alec Baldwin or Tony Atamanuik to play trump, this is a fictional world, deviated from the actual politics of the 21st century. Portraying the post-trump world without donald trump likely proved to be a much harder nut to crack.

With this past week’s season 7 premiere, “Iowa”, it’s probably safe to say that the show found where it had stored its nut cracker, because that biting commentary, that brutal take-no-prisoners attitude of the show was out and swinging with a fantastic episode. An episode that in no way forgets Veep’s roots as being about a terrible, selfish politician and the terrible selfish people around her, while still finding the perfect moments to crack the whip in the direction of white nationalism and gun culture.

The episode centers largely around Selina’s repeated failed attempts to announce her presidential campaign. She arrives at the wrong Iowan airport, she’s stalled by multiple mass shootings, she’s stonewalled by unpaid contractors and her staff’s failures. And when she does finally announce, her declaration is overshadowed by the shitshow that is Jonah Ryan’s literally incestuous campaign, which, it turns out, people find more raw and appealing than a business-as-usual Selina Meyer running once again for president.

The episode established that, in its final season, Veep will not cease to be a show about terrible people insulting each other terribly for being bad at their jobs. It’s almost like it’s going through an existential crisis, as Selina constantly laments the ineffective nature of her staff all while making the exact same mistakes they try to warn her about. And yet, it’s also a show that rips apart the debate around mass shootings, purposely never taking an actual stance on the matter and playing into the ridiculous nature of the “thoughts and prayers” response (to the point where Selina slapdashedly tries to rebrand it as “mindfulness and meditations” instead of actually trying to say something substantive, only doing so absentmindedly when questioned by Mike, whom she forgets no longer works for her. The way the episode tackles the politicization of mass shootings is absolutely brutal and hilarious, as is what they set up with Jonah Ryan playing the post-trump candidate. I hope this isn’t insulting towards Timothy Simons, because he’s really good as playing a disgusting, gargantuan monster who you can totally believe is the rallying call of the alt-right (and yet “alt-right” and “white nationalism” are terms that aren’t uttered in this episode, and likely never will be over the course of the season, because this show is truly that brilliant when it comes to subtext).

In other words, this is a great episode that feels like it earned its two year break. It feels like it’s cemented its place in the modern political conversation, despite arguably feeling out of touch the last time we saw it, and without losing sight of what got it here. It seems like it’s adapted perfectly, all while managing a huge, talented cast where there still is a lead that’s head-and-shoulders above all the rest; and as you’ll see below, that lead manages to steal the show despite the ever-growing cast that not only brings back pretty much everyone from previous seasons and adds the incomparable Andy Daly as Selina’s accidental new campaign manager.

“Iowa” proves that Veep’s still got it, and with nothing left to hold back, this final season is shaping up to be one hell of a ride.

Below are my favourite lines from the episode, be sure to check back weekly for the rest of the season!

  • Jonah Insult of the Week: 80-story Skyraper
  • Amy: “Hey, sweatpants! You can’t just walk out, this isn’t a Terrence Malick movie.”
  • Selina: “I’m not sure about the part where I say I want to be president for all Americans. I mean, do I? All of them?”
  • Selina: “If Mohammed Atta had you people booking his travel he’d still be alive today. Which from his perspective would be a massive fuckup.”
  • Dan/Selina: “FYI we’re tracking a school shooting in Spokane, Washington.” “Muslim or white guy? Which one’s better for me?”
  • Amy/Selina: “First of all, there was a reluctance on the part of the candidate to take responsibility for mistakes.” “What, no, you were the one who made mistakes.” “Second, there was a culture of blame which made people feel unsafe expressing criticisms.” “What dumb asshole said that?”
  • Selina: “How about I write 500 pages on how you need to start wearing concealer?”
  • Selina (escaping Marjorie): “I just had to get away from Blue is the Most Annoying Color.”
  • Selina/Amy: “Amy, why would you want to be president?” “So I could nuke America.”
  • Teddy/Bill: “How did this not come up?” “The same reason it didn’t come up that he moisturizes with Minotaur semen, it’s not one of the standard questions!”
  • Kent: “Google always filters out my emails, they think I’m a bot.”
  • Selina/Ben: “I really thought my 50s would be about sucking and fucking my way through the Shorestein Center.” “You and me both, ma’am.”
  • Amy: “I don’t want people to think I was going for Megan Egan because that sounds like someone who gets assfucked on the Major Deegan in a limerick.”
  • Selina: “I was a gamechanger, I took a dump on the glass ceiling and I shaved my muff in the sink of the old boys club.”
  • Ben: “technically it’s more of a goat rape than a clusterfuck.”
  • Jonah: “It’s exactly what Woody Allen did. I’m clearly no more of a pervert than he is.”