One of the most difficult aspects of crafting a pilot is handling the introduction of the characters. While you have to give us enough to invest in your cast quickly, there's a danger of getting wrapped up in exposition and losing any sense of actually telling an engaging or funny story. This is why so many pilots are the weakest episode of a series, they have to spend a significant amount of screen time doing introductions and walking the fine line of what is too little or too much information.
The best pilot can do it in one scene (like Don Draper's intro in the Mad Men pilot) but most take the bulk of the first show, if not longer, to get us not only familiar with the people who inhabit this world but make us interested enough to want to spend a half-hour to an hour with them each week. Now, this problem becomes exponentially harder when your show has a large ensemble of key characters that are all central to the on-screen operations of the program. And since HBO's new comedy Veep is set in the second highest political office, there are loads of advisors, assistants and other underlings to introduce. Oh, and the Vice President herself. Yes, herself.
Selina Meyer, Vice President
Amy Brookheimer, Chief of Staff
Mike McClintock, Director of Communications
Dan Egan, Deputy Director of Communications
Gary Walsh, The Body Man
Sue Wilson, Executive Assistant
Jonah Ryan, White House Liaison
We were only given a taste (and I must admit, the background music was terrible) but it looks like they're all on top form, especially Julia Louis-Dreyfus as VP Meyer. And it's interesting to note that while it seems to be lacking the 'Malcolm Tucker' ball-busting role that made Armando Iannucci's The Thick of It and In The Loop extra hilarious, it looks like the pair of Deputy Director of Communications, Dan Egan and Executive Assistant, Sue Wilson might pick up the slack. Still, fingers are crossed for a Peter Capaldi cameo. It's also worth noting that Matt Walsh and Tony Hale are almost alway funny, My Girl Anna Chlumsky was great in In The Loop and the Jonah Ryan character is very reminiscent of Zach Wood's Chad from the same film.
It's a very smart strategy for HBO to release these Veep character featurettes because they not only offer the audience another taste of the comedy but, more importantly, get us all familiar with the many faces that will be integral to the series right from the first episode. The VP might not carry a big stick but she does have quite a large clique and based on these introductions it looks like they'll all bring a unique brand of comedy to the new show from Iannucci. Most importantly, they look like they've built a great chemistry which is pivotal for a series that relies so much on the characters' bickering and bantering.
Veep premieres on Sunday, April 22 on HBO. It stars Julia Louis Dreyfus, Matt Walsh, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Sufe Bradshaw, Tim Simons and Reid Scott. It was created by Armando Iannucci.