Armando Iannucci puts The Thick of It to bed as Washington comedy Veep apes US government shutdown


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The Independent Culture

Viewers are used to Whitehall scandals which appear to have been lifted from The Thick Of It. Now Armando Iannucci has repeated the trick with Veep, his Washington comedy, which returns with an episode depicting the catastrophic results of a US federal government shutdown.

The Emmy-winning Veep, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfuss plays the hapless Vice President Selina Meyer, returns for a second series on Sky Atlantic this month.

Satire imitates life when Meyer receives the blame for a government shutdown, created by a similar case of Congressional gridlock which has caused 700,000 US civil servants to be sent home from work this week.

Veep predicts the chaos which could ensue, as bears start eating people because there are no park rangers. Meyer’s approval ratings plummet when she hires a private contractor to clear the garbage which has piled up outside her home.

Iannucci, series creator of Veep and The Thick Of It, said: “We do a kind of intelligent guesstimate of the things that are happening. They’ve come so close to a shutdown before, it’s almost like every Thanksgiving there’s a shutdown threat. So we thought, let’s do a shutdown crisis. We talked to our advisers about what happened during the Clinton shutdown of 1995.”

Like The Thick Of It in Britain, Veep has won the approval of the political class which it satirises. “Vice-President Joe Biden invited Julia to lunch,” Iannucci said. “Then he invited her to come to a speech he was giving at the CIA.”

He added: “I’m dubious of getting too close to politicians. I do get requests from some high-profile politicians to be in it and I say ‘No’. We don’t want to get too cosy. I’m always baffled they can’t see that it’s not a programme that portrays politicians in a favourable light.”

The comedy writer disappointed fans of Veep's Westminster predecessor, saying: “I think the world of The Thick of It has quietly been put in its box. I felt like I’ve done what I wanted to do with the series. Now I’m observing (UK politics) as a member of the public, so when I see Ukip I don’t think, ‘this is great material’, I think ‘dear god in heaven.’”

But Iannucci said he was “very pleased” that Peter Capaldi, spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, will be next Doctor Who. Capaldi would be “tremendous because he has that range. As the Doctor you can see Peter going from gentle to being that strong, powerful personality.”

Veep has already been commissioned by HBO for a third series, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the Emmys two years in a row.

The second series sees the vice president given a greater role in the administration whilst future episodes will tackle abortion, immigration and gun control.

The Veep characters will cross the Atlantic for an episode set in London but Iannucci said it was very unlikely that their paths would cross with Tucker or any other alumni from The Thick Of It.

Veep Series 2 airs on 16 October, at 10.30pm on Sky Atlantic.