HBO Comedy Block Week 6

SILICON VALLEY – BACHMANITY INSANITY (S3E6)

Big Head’s broke, meaning Erlich is broke. Actually, Big Head is broke because he allowed Erlich to be Erlich, including requesting a chocolate moat at an Alcatraz luau complete with boats made out of graham crackers and marshmallows. Luckily, Nelson does have a business manager who was able to figure out the insolvency problem before any further damage was done, although half a million for a tech blog and a lavish party with the stupidest theme of all time were quite the wrecking balls.

Richard meets an attractive, single woman with shared interests, but can’t stay with her because of his obsession with using tabs over spaces in code. So we sadly must wave goodbye to you, Miss Winnie. We hardly knew ye.

Jared has sex with a gorgeous woman named Carol and as she leaves, the entire Pied Piper crew stares in complete shock. Erlich walks in and reminds us of Russ Hanneman’s, “This guy fucks” line from last year.

Dinesh comes up with a way to dramatically increase the video quality on chat programming that would enable him to see his colleague, Elisabet, with whom he’s been flirting. He doesn’t want to appear shallow, but Gilfoyle convinces him she might be a “dogface.” Turns out, he’s the dogface and she pulls the “boyfriend” and “husband” card as soon as she sees him. I felt bad for Dinesh, but it was double-sided, because he was trying to make sure this girl he really liked wasn’t an uggo and he ended up stumbling face-first right into a big pile of butter himself. It serves him right, but the worst portion happening in front of Gilfoyle was a nice touch. The snark is real with that one.

We took a break this week from the platform and much of the actual Pied Piper business to show the guys attempting to score, and because this is Silicon Valley, Richard can’t just be happy with the woman. He instead has to break into a figurative Seinfeld impersonation and break up with her over the coding issue, which is akin to eating her peas one at a time. This was Richard Hendricks at his most obnoxious, and when he wasn’t on screen, I enjoyed Bachmanity Insanity more than when he was the focus.

He’s never been able to get out of his own way, and here was another example. While the prevailing wisdom says that eventually he and Monica will actually turn into “something,” as long as they’re nothing, him having pants-free time with single hot ladies wouldn’t suck. He never even got past the jeans and over the shirt phase before he was able to find a reason to screw himself out of the chance to…screw.

Jared is undeniably the best of these people, so him not completely blowing it with Carol was a nice point in this week’s episode. You root for him because he’s actually got a good heart, and although he’s a doormat, he has never even considered taking advantage of his friends or undercutting any professional relationship. Contrast Jared to Gavin Belson, who remarks of how times have changed, lamenting the fact that he can no longer just kill protesters in his parking lot or murder reporters who say negative things about him. No sympathy, so anything bad that happens to Hooli is something good happening to the audience.

Virtually the entire episode was spent with the personal lives of everyone outside of the Bachmanity duo, and there were more jokes in sheer quantity than we’ve seen in the last few weeks. It was a good episode, though Veep was the far better show this week and in fact, has been the better of the two this season as a whole. It’s not a slight. They’re both terrific.

I asked last week for the writers to let us have a few weeks where the leads just had some fun and didn’t screw everything up. In some ways, that’s what happened, but although they didn’t submarine the main company this week, they did nearly bankrupt a secondary partnership and make most of the cast look like complete idiots and losers when it comes to the opposite sex.

That’s a fair enough idea, because everything Richard does in his personal life should be an utter failure until he and Monica end up kissing at the end of one of these seasons, and then even he won’t be able to entirely jack that one up. However, Peter did lose Joanna for several minutes in Office Space before winning her back. Maybe that story never gets told this time, but I’d be stunned if they don’t at least toy with that road and see how the car drives on that stretch. If it doesn’t work, they can bail, but it’s a point that could ground Richard a bit and send the show on a fresh course once things get stale.

We’ll probably get back to the business side of things next week, but I did like backing away from that after the CEO storyline came to a close (we think, though Erlich might believe differently) and just spending a night chilling with the guys in their natural habitat. But Richard’s break up and subsequent tumble down the stairs was another Silicon Valley special. He’s literally tripped twice this season, even after I used the analogy long before he took his first spill as Skunkworks scattered across the floor three weeks ago.

It will never be easy for any of these guys. It’s the most important verse to be found in the book of Judge.

VEEP – C**TGATE (S5E6)

Jonah Ryan is still running for Congress, and he has an actual website at www.jonahryanforcongress.com. That domain’s very existence is potentially the greatest thing to ever occur in all of human history. The Gettysburg Address, Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, Jonas Salk’s cure for polio, ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, and the releases of Back to the Future and The Dark Knight all must move to the side. I fear I haven’t said enough. It might not be adequate praise, but I try to restrain myself and avoid hyperbole whenever possible.

I halfway expected to click that link and immediately be treated to Gary Glitter music, seeing as how even Enya demanded the campaign stop using her work, but no such luck.

Even better than just running for the office is Dan Egan serving as his campaign manager. Going back to the earliest of this show’s classic moments is the adversarial relationship between the Jonah and Dan characters, and here they are, thrown together in a spot where they have to work with one another and perhaps find common ground, though it’s unlikely to last in the long term. We did get that mild heartfelt sequence where the two come together in their disdain for Selina and actually begin complimenting each other. It was pathetic, because both of them are complete Massengill containers, but it was at least a few seconds of emotion.

Add to it Bill Erickson’s return, as Diedrich Bader comes back in with – to borrow a line from the late Greg Giraldo – all the charm of a school bus fire. Watching all of this, plus the grin on Richard’s face as communications director, has me over the moon in entertainment value, and that’s before we even get to how smarmy and unfeeling Peter MacNicol was yet again this week.

Not only has Veep not suffered any ill effects with the switch from Iannucci to Mandel, the show is stronger than ever. Armando has to be jumping for joy that his show is in such good hands, because this has been an absolutely outstanding season. The story is good. The laughs are good. The performances and dialogue execution are good. The character development is good. The pacing and timing are good. The direction is good (incidentally this week it was JLD’s better half, Brad Hall, behind the camera). It’s all good, and Veep has reclaimed its throne as the funniest, best comedy on television.

The show has also proven this year that it can subsist on both smaller and larger crises and can make a week appear to be a year. Very little time has passed from the premiere to Sunday’s sixth episode, but as we all know, a metric ton has occurred. Scandals, disasters, razor thin decisions, social media faux pas, and many of these scoops of oddball get sorted out within an episode or two, until a callback several episodes later that reminds us just how carefully Veep is crafted.

The results of the election are still completely up in the air, with the determination now in the hands of Congress, and with all the maneuvering, never once has it been a drag. It feels proper for the situation at hand, and while Meyer v. O’Brien continues, Selina is dealing with a financial crisis, name calling, her usual stressful staff, and yes, Catherine’s news, which was so well placed within the structure of the episode that it caught me entirely off guard. Marjorie remarking about how giggly she’s been was the closest Ron Swanson moment we’ve had since Parks & Recreation took its final bow.

The Dow is down over 3200 points and three investment banks need “massive capital infusions,” which leads to a nice back and forth between Mike and Leon over the meaning of the word bailout. The debate over whether to assist Charlie’s bank was strong, and we got an eye opening Kent Davison moment as he explodes and screams at POTUS in the Oval Office. Even Ben is struggling with his boss’ attitude and unwillingness to see the forest for the trees, and then comes the dreaded “C” word.

I’ve never called a woman that word and consider it the second most vile term in all of language, but when the story broke on POLITICO and Selina tasked Amy with figuring out who called her a “See (C) You (U) Next Tuesday,” I saw where we were headed. At different times during the investigation, Amy finds out that Kent did it, Mike did it, and Ben admits to doing it in front of the reporter who wrote the story. Gary thinks he did it, because he once referred to her as an “old crone,” and Amy knows she herself did it.

It didn’t matter that it was an extremely obvious gag, because the manner in which the writers let each character reveal their part was so well done. Plus, of course these people called Selina the word. Not only are all of them pieces of garbage in their own right, there’s this other little part, where Meyer IS that description almost every second she’s awake.

Selina’s reaction to her daughter’s lesbian reveal, invoking her dead mother in an extremely callous manner, should immediately lead anyone watching the show to think of her as, well, you know. And the general public knows of her Tuesday tendencies also, which Veep makes clear when Jonah nearly gets a standing ovation for burying her on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

Another tremendous half hour this week and we didn’t even go into detail on Jonah’s campaign ad, featuring that insane ax swing and him chasing after a small child with no real context provided. And let’s not forget about the focus group, and the two-way mirror. Veep is en fuego right now.

Follow me @GuyNamedJason. My glasses make me look half-smart.

Written by Jason Martin