Exactly 200 years after their last semi-successful attempt at razing Washington, D.C., the British are finally back to finish the job with Veep. A funny, transatlantic fusillade of the first order, the new HBO comedy — debuting this Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET — smartly takes aim at the softest target in the capital: the vice presidency. Needless to say, it doesn’t miss. Starring a never-better Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the country’s first female second-in-command, Veep punctures every shred of pompous Washingtonian pomp and circumstance. Meyer is craven, misanthropic, and curses like a sailor stubbing her toe on a pirate. A heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world, she’s utterly powerless, reduced to reading absurdly redacted speeches, sniping at her staff, and asking her secretary if the president has called. (She seems both infuriated and relieved that he never does.) For a brief moment every four years, the vice presidency is the most coveted position in the world. The rest of the time it’s a joke — and Veep has the punchlines to prove it.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t need to be doing this. At 51, the multiple-Emmy Award winner already has a career-defining — and children-inheritance-guaranteeing — run on Seinfeld as the bisque-mentioning Elaine Benes under her belt. In recent years, Louis-Dreyfus has mixed comic professionalism (a five-season run on CBS’s The New Adventures of Old Christine) with detours into hipster-approved hilarity (guest turns on Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and, most memorably, as herself on Curb Your Enthusiasm). Now she’s taken her talents to HBO, starring in Veep, the first American offering from culty Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, the man who turned Steve Coogan into Alan Partridge and created Malcolm Tucker, the poetically profane political adviser at the center of a successful TV series (BBC’s The Thick of It) and crossover film (2009’s In the Loop). Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, the country’s first female vice president, and a scheming stress ball who manages to offend entire swaths of the population while apologizing to another. On the phone from Los Angeles, the self-described “worker bee” was friendly, professional, and surprisingly giddy when complimented.