A new season of HBO’s wacky, wonderful “Veep” is upon us, which is a golden opportunity to celebrate some great political second bananas from TV and movies. You might even recognize a couple of them from history class – and the evening news.
PAUL GIAMATTI IN “JOHN ADAMS”
Our first example is our first vice president. Paul Giamatti gave a towering performance in the TV miniseries “John Adams” in 2008. It was no easy job, because Adams was a feisty, fussy character while also being an intellectual powerhouse and a true patriot. The section where Adams is vice president is wonderful, showing just how uncomfortable that position has been from the very beginning.
GLENN CLOSE IN “AIR FORCE ONE”
Here’s a great popcorn movie in which the vice president is faced with something the Founding Fathers never envisioned: terrorists have kidnapped the president aboard his airplane IN MID-FLIGHT. Close does nice work showing us her character’s shock, confusion, hesitation and resolve.
TIM MATHESON IN “THE WEST WING”
Aaron Sorkin has given so many actors a chance to show their dramatic range. In this case, Matheson, normally a comic actor with a light touch, got to be wonderfully complicated and prickly as President Bartlett’s VP on “The West Wing.” I think it’s the best work he’s done. Well, aside from “Animal House.”
BEN KINGSLEY IN “DAVE”
No nuance here. In the comedy “Dave,” about a guy who happens to look exactly like the sitting president (Kevin Kline), Ben Kingsley is the straight-arrow vice president who has been shunted aside because he’s not corrupt.
POWERS BOOTHE IN “24”
TV’s “24” offers us an array of complex vice presidents – many of them quite devious. My favorite of the bunch is Powers Boothe, who came on later in the series’ run. Boothe just has an incredible intensity.
JOAN ALLEN IN “THE CONTENDER”
Technically, Joan Allen’s character was only in the running to become vice president in “The Contender.” Still, it was a role that indicated the symbolic importance of the office and also the thankless nature of it.
RICHARD DREYFUSS IN “W.”
Say what you will about Vice President Dick Cheney, he never approached the position as symbolic. In “W.,” Richard Dreyfuss played Cheney as a politician with immense influence in the George W. Bush White House.
DAN ZISKIE IN “HOUSE OF CARDS”
Sure, Ziskie’s VP is a fictional character, but he does bear some passing resemblance to a certain folksy, gaffe-prone vice president we all know. In “House of Cards,” the vice president becomes something of a pawn in an overall scheme by a Congressman yearning for more power.
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS IN “VEEP”
She is simply brilliant in “Veep” as a vain, egotistical, paranoid vice president. Anyone who thinks they’ve seen all the tricks Ms. Louis-Dreyfus has to offer in “Seinfeld” needs to see this show. Here, she’s a classic fast-talker. She’s also hard-edged, foul-mouthed and completely in charge. I believe this performance puts her solidly in the handful of best comic actresses in TV history.
Hail to the Almost-Chief!