The road to the White House begins in Iowa.
Or so we learn in the sharp third season opener of “Veep.”
Determined to test the presidential waters, Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) heads to the tall corn state to pimp her book, “Some New Beginnings.”
Folks there question the title (“is it a reference to ‘Star Wars’?” one asks), her motives and what she thinks about a woman’s butter carving.
To show she’s willing to play the game, Meyer then agrees to speak at the funeral of an Iowa congressman she hardly knew. The result? Classic laughs.
“Veep” is so well written it’s the comedic equivalent of “House of Cards” – a show that exposes the inner workings of Washington, gleefully willing to poke the bear.
Iowa? It gets the typical barbs but creator Armando Iannucci has such a firm grasp on the phony political world they’re aimed more at the participants than the observers.
When the campaign gets traction, Selina quickly feels the heat of attention. Bloggers, “Saturday Night Live” and special interest groups attach themselves to her faster than an anonymous online commentator.
Because she’s swimming with sharks, it’s clear one of her staffers will become campaign manager. All jockey for position (yup, even the weakest link) while Jonah (Timothy C. Simons), the White House liaison, gets his own brass ring moment.
In subsequent episodes, Meyer messes with her fellow contenders, visits a tech company (that’s so spot-on Mark Zuckerberg should be nervous) and flipflops on key issues.
In other words, it’s business as usual.
This season, though, there isn’t as much (key words: as much) swearing as there was last year. Fringe characters rise to the top and purse holder Gary (Tony Hale) worries that he’s not being heard.
Louis-Dreyfus continues to deliver the goods as Meyer. She’s so adept at playing a politician you could easily name four or five presidential candidates she could be channeling.
Hale is still fun, too (even though others get in his way of clearcut humor) but part of his thunder has been stolen by Simons who’s so wickedly good as the Washington insider who blogs it’d be fun to see a whole episode on his exploits.
Tossing Meyer into the election fray was a great idea, particularly since it gets away from the well-worn path she strutted last season. Now, out of her comfort zone, she’s bobbing and weaving with the best of them.
Hopefully, the opener’s Iowa visit was only the beginning. We can only imagine what she would do with the Iowa State Fair and that little nighttime affair known as the Iowa Caucuses.
"Veep" returns to HBO at 9:30 p.m. April 6.