Veep was a satirical, scripted comedy series that followed the fictitious vice president of the United States, “Selina Meyer,” played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and her staff as they navigated the difficult political landscape in Washington, D.C. The show was known for its style of “cringe comedy,” a genre that derives its humor from the characters’ lack of self-awareness and awkward behavior in social interactions. Other shows in this genre included Curb Your Enthusiasm, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.
Veep was created by Scottish writer-producer Armando Iannucci and adapted from his BBC comedy series The Thick of It, which was a satirical look at the inner workings of the British government. The U.K. series led to the 2009 feature film spin-off, In the Loop, featuring several characters from The Thick of It during an attempt to prevent an impending war.
In 2007, a pilot for a U.S. adaptation of The Thick of It, written and executive produced by Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, was not picked up for series. Two years later, former New York Times columnist Frank Rich saw a screening of In the Loop. As a consultant at HBO, he knew that the network was interested in greenlighting a political series. However, when HBO approached Iannucci, he initially turned them down before settling on the concept of focusing on the role of the vice president.
Louis-Dreyfus led the ensemble cast playing “Selina Meyer,” the former U.S. Senator from Maryland who became vice president after a failed run at the Oval Office. Early seasons focused on her frustrations with the lack of respect she received from “President Stuart Hughes,” who was never seen on camera throughout the entire series. In season 3, “Meyer” became the first female president of the United States when “Hughes” resigned to tend to his ill wife. As her eight-month term approached its end, “Meyer” chose “Senator Tom James” (played by Hugh Laurie of House) as her running mate. In season 5, after an Electoral College vote, Congress did not choose “Meyer” to be president for another term.
“Meyer” returned to the private sector in season 6, where after a long-term “trip to the spa” that was really a stint in a mental health facility, she focused on writing her memoir, A Woman First: First Woman (an actual version of which was published in 2019); on planning her presidential library; and on running her charity, The Meyer Fund for Adult Literacy, AIDS, the Advancement of Global Democracy, Military Family Assistance, and Childhood Obesity. In the seventh and final season, “Meyer” launched another bid for the presidency, running against opponents like her former running mate, “Tom James,” and one-time White House liaison to Vice President Meyer's Office, "Jonah Ryan” (played by Timothy C. Simons), whom she chose as her new running mate. Thanks to interference from the Chinese government, “Meyer” ultimately won a second term.
In addition to Louis-Dreyfus, Veep featured a large ensemble cast of comedic actors, including Tony Hale as her personal aide (aka, bagman), “Gary Walsh,” Anna Chlumsky as “Selina's” chief of staff, “Amy Brookheimer,” Matt Walsh as the vice president's director of communications, “Mike McLintock,” and Reid Scott as the vice president's deputy director of communications, “Dan Egan.” Sufe Bradshaw appeared as the vice president's personal secretary, “Sue Wilson,” in seasons 1 through 5, with a guest appearance in season 7. Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole both started as recurring characters in early seasons but moved into series-regular roles later in the show's run, playing the White House chief of staff, "Ben Cafferty,” and the senior strategist to the president, "Kent Davidson,” respectively. Sarah Sutherland appeared throughout the series as “Selina's” daughter, “Catherine Meyer.” In season 3, Sam Richardson joined the cast as the cheerful but incompetent campaign aide, “Richard Splett,” who went on to be a two-term president, as revealed in the series finale.
Casting was an essential element to the success of the show, since the actors also contributed to the writing. While the show was scripted by writers, the cast improvised during rehearsals and much of that exploration impacted dialogue, physicality, and even storyline changes that would be incorporated into subsequent versions of the script. While shooting, the cast was also often encouraged to go off script for additional takes.
While the series’ creative team did in-depth research of political trends of the time, they were also known for writing stories that coincidentally paralleled real-world events. One such instance occurred in the season 1 episode "Chung,” in which “Meyer” made a comment on Meet the Press that caused controversy. Just one week earlier, on May 6, 2012, then-Vice President Joe Biden had expressed his support of same-sex marriage on Meet the Press. His remarks were also controversial because they were not in sync with the official policy of the Obama White House. The Veep episode, which aired on May 13, had been written long in advance of the real-life Vice President’s appearance on the Sunday morning news program.
Throughout the course of the show, the real-world political landscape changed significantly. For the first five years that Veep was in production, Barack Obama was president. When Donald Trump assumed office in 2017, the next season had already been written. Following a lengthy hiatus when Louis-Dreyfus was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, season 7 became the first one written in the Trump era. The Veep team made it clear that they did not base the storylines on then-President Trump, but did parallel the state of politics at that point in history. And, of course, “Selina Meyer” served as Vice President long before Kamala Harris was elected the first female Vice President of the United States.
The single camera, half-hour comedy series premiered on April 22, 2012, and ran for seven seasons for a total of 65 episodes, ending its run on May 12, 2019. For much of its run, Veep aired following HBO’s acclaimed series Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. Veep filmed in Baltimore, Maryland for four seasons before moving production to Los Angeles, with additional shoots in Washington, D.C. Although the series was expected to begin shooting season 7 in 2017, Louis-Dreyfus’ medical issues delayed production until August of 2018, and the final season premiered March 21, 2019.
Iannucci served as showrunner for the first three seasons of the series but decided to leave in 2015. David Mandel (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) was brought in as executive producer starting in season 4. Mandel was the showrunner until the series ended in 2019.
Throughout its seven-season run, Veep was nominated for 68 Emmy Awards and garnered 17 Emmy wins. Louis-Dreyfus was nominated seven times for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, winning six consecutive years in a row between 2012 and 2017, and breaking the records for most consecutive wins for an actor and most wins by a performer for the same role. As of 2022, Louis-Dreyfus was tied with Cloris Leachman for most Emmy wins for a performer (Louis-Dreyfus had additional wins for her earlier turns as “Elaine Benes” on Seinfeld and “Christine Campbell” on The New Adventures of Old Christine.) Louis-Dreyfus also took home Emmys in 2015, 2016, and 2017 for her work as a producer when Veep won for Outstanding Comedy Series. Louis-Dreyfus’ co-star Tony Hale won Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2013 and 2015 for his role as “Gary Walsh.”
Veep ended in 2019 at the end of season 7. The decision was made by showrunner Mandel and Louis-Dreyfus -- they did not want to repeat storylines and felt that the series had come to a natural conclusion. Veep will always stand out from other political TV series like House of Cards and The West Wing for its comedic, but often piercing look at politics in Washington, D.C.
- Amy & Nancy Harrington, Pop Culture Passionistas
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as “Selina Meyer”
Tony Hale as “Gary Walsh”
Anna Chlumsky as “Amy Brookheimer”
Matt Walsh as “Mike McLintock”
Timothy C. Simons as “Jonah Ryan”
Reid Scott as “Dan Egan”
Gary Cole as “Kent Davison” (Recurring seasons 2–3; seasons 4–7)
Kevin Dunn as “Ben Cafferty” (Recurring season 2; seasons 3–7)
Sufe Bradshaw as “Sue Wilson” (seasons 1–5; Guest appearance in season 7)
Sarah Sutherland as “Catherine Meyer” (Guest season 1; Recurring seasons 2–6; season 7)
Sam Richardson as “Richard Splett”
Hugh Laurie as “Tom James”
Armando Iannucci, (seasons 1-3), David Mandel, (seasons 4-7), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (seasons 4-7), Frank Rich (seasons 1-7), Christopher Godsick (seasons 1-5)
April 12, 2012-June 23, 2013 Sundays at 10:00-10:30 PM
April 6, 2014-April 21, 2019 Sundays at 10:30-11:00 PM
April 28, 2019 Sunday at 11:00-11:30 PM
May 5, 2019 Sunday at 10:50-11:20 PM
May 12, 2019 Sunday at 10:52:11:22 PM
Meyer, S. Woman First: First Woman. Harry N. Abrams, 2019.
Widdicombe, B. ‘Veep’ Toasts Its Final Season. New York Times, 2019.
Susman, G. Discomfort Zone: 10 Great Cringe Comedies. Time Magazine, 2013.