The current presidential race embodies the cliché "truth is stranger than fiction" — even when that fiction includes the latest, wildest and strongest run yet of "Veep."
The fifth season of TV's best comedy ends Sunday with president-via-resignation Selina Meyer facing ouster from office after a tie election and subsequent back-room backstabbing by her own veep, who stands to succeed her (and wants her to return to the No. 2 spot).
The HBO show, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, offered another sitcom master class this go-around as hilariously foul-mouthed Selina's single-minded quest to become the first woman elected president appeared cursed. There's nothing clichéd, though, about the program, which put its own comic twist on old political sayings, among them:
All Politics is Local
Selina pinned her presidential hopes on gangly, ruthless and idiotic political operative Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), who her minions put up as a congressional candidate in his New Hampshire home district, hoping to sway the state to her. Jonah, who stomped over his former second grade teacher to win, of course, screwed up when Selina needed him most. But he outdid Selina by one measure: making the most obscene utterance yet on "Veep" — in front of a class of grade-schoolers.
Politics Make Strange Bedfellows
Selina went all the way with her treacherous vice president, Tom James (Hugh Laurie) — likening the act (in coarse terms) to his attempt to snatch away the presidency. She previously bedded a Wall Street titan (John Slattery) who was advising her presidential opponent — and whose firm she shafted out of a bailout.
Meanwhile, Selina's hapless daughter, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland), exposed her mother's dalliances (and power obsession) with a documentary. The attention-starved first daughter also found love: with a Selina look-alike Secret Service agent (Clea DuVall).
The Buck Stops Here
After a damaging news story in which an unnamed staffer calls Selina a very, very bad word, the president orders an internal investigation. Everyone denies guilt, but it turns out they all said it at one time or another – except for Selina’s naïve and loyal bagman Gary (Tony Hale), who fears he’s going to be fired for calling her a “crone.”
Selina, who casts blame constantly, leads by example. She set up an unpopular (Diedrich Bader) staffer to take the fall — and prison time — for a scandal. He came back, of course, to haunt her at election time.
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick
A recurring "Veep" delight has been Selina whispering insults through her forced smile during public events and private diplomatic sessions. This season’s best case-in-point: when she charmed, then bullied a folksy rep (Stephnie Weir) into supporting her – reaming out the lawmaker with foul language before making her give in with a cheery: "Okeydokey, Annie Oakley!"
It Ain't Over Til It's Over
Yogi Berra's famous saying, long ago co-opted by all spheres of competition, seems appropriate as the "Veep" season heads to its final installment. Whenever it looks like there's no hope, Selina finds new ways to defy conventional wisdom – and wring much-needed laughs out of presidential politics.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.