Veep – Season 4
It’s crazy to think that Veep has already concluded it’s 4th season. These 10-episode runs make things seem much shorter than they are. It’s pretty rare for a comedy to still being going so strong after four seasons, but that is where the benefit of only being 38 episodes in helps. A more traditional comedy would have barely wrapped up two seasons by 38 episodes. The ensemble of this cast is strong, but there is little doubt that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is what makes it special. It’s bonkers to think she is 54, since she could pass for 40 and doesn’t seem to have aged much since Seinfeld, but she just carries the load so well. Everyone plays off of her since a majority of the cast are her subordinates, and that makes her that much more important to the show. She should win every Emmy she is up for because she is just that good.
But Michael Jordan didn’t win championships until he got a good supporting cast, and there is no shortage of that here. Tony Hale is amazing as her personal assistant, and Timothy Simons as (constantly changing role) Jonah Ryan is not only the main punching bag, but has some of the best lines in the recent history of television. Hugh Laurie was an excellent addition as her running mate, and Matt Walsh and the rest of the cast are all good. It’s amazing how a show about nothing but politics seems to do so well in not getting deep into the policy of it all the way that House of Cards tends to do. Sure the plots can go beyond being ridiculous at times, but the punchlines are almost always worth the build up. Not quite a current Mount Rushmore show for me, but not far off either.
# Silicon Valley – Season 2
Veep’s running mate is the goofy look at the tech start-up culture as they battle a monolith that is basically Google. Silicon Valley seems to have more outrageish gags, and definitely blows past vulgar a good chunk of the time, but it is hilarious throughout. This show could not be more perfect for guys like TJ Miller and Martin Starr who are hall of famers when it comes to playing eccentric/weird/stalkerish/cocky/rude a-holes. Thomas Middleditch does such an amazing job at playing the awkward, skittish Richard that it literally makes me uncomfortable to watch sometimes. Like Veep the gags and setups often pay off wonderfully in the laughs department. But this story suffers a bit at times for being too outrageous, and what I like to call the “Entourage Storytelling”.
Too outrageous comes into play with Chris Diamatopoulos’ Russ Hanneman character, who takes every stereotype and/or crazy trait of real tech CEOs to extreme levels. It get’s to a point late in the season where you just want him to go away. The Entourage Storytelling is more about the concept of the characters ping-ponging back and forth between good news and bad news, but at extreme levels. Frequently on Entourage really good news would either be immediately flipped by bad news, or at the latest this would happen in the next episode. It built a nice cliffhanger mentality to the show, but got old really fast. The second season of Silicon Valley felt exactly this way. And that is potentially it’s fatal flaw. Unlike Veep, which only slightly has a greater arc than the current episode, Silicon Valley has a large one hovering over the series. The fictitious company has to go somewhere sooner rather than later to keep this show fresh, but for now it’s funny enough to be a must watch.
Game of Thrones – Season 5
The 5th season ended with the 50th episode of this show. It’s amazing how much has happened to each individual character, and yet how little feels like it has happened to the greater plot. Season 1 opens with Whitewalkers. Dany starts marching towards Westeros shortly after that, characters both new and old have died, and yet zooming out it’s harder than ever to see the forest for the trees. The 5th season was certainly on the weaker side of the spectrum of the series to this point, but it was far from bad. Tyrion Lannister is still one of the best characters/performances outside of Breaking Bad and Mad Men that was have recently seen.
This show has always had a problem of having too many characters and too many stories running simultaneously. The fact that the show has already consumed most of the major (existing) book arcs, means they can take some liberties to tidy things up a bit, but at the end of the day the show still spends too much time on stories that either go nowhere, or aren’t entertaining. While it’s both nice and amazing that the story can interweave so many plots, and callback to so many little moments without overdoing it is great, but after 50 episodes it’s clear I am at a point where I wish they would spend more time with the best stories, and less time with things that aren’t even good. The twists and turns keep this show up there as one of my favorites, but as it turns towards the home stretch (rumors are there are only 2–3 seasons left) it seems like a good time to focus on the best stuff. The universe that this story is based on has a ridiculous intricate history, one that makes it obvious there won’t be a kind of finite ending at the end of the series. With that in mind, there is no closure to be had, so it would be far better to make the rest of the journey as good as possible. Again, not a bad season, just not a great on either.
House of Lies – Season 4
I stopped watching this show sometime during season 3, but I don’t recall exactly when. For the most part, it’s not good. Why it is getting Emmy nominations still shocks me. Season 4 I watched as full on background noise in binge mode. It make the show much more tolerable because it condensed the best jokes over a shorter overall time span. Most of the stories are just so bad, and the constant bait-and-switch that goes on leaves me completely uninterested in any aspect of the story. That leaves just the funny conversations and one-liners. Those vary in laughs, but are generally solid enough to make this show bingleable while you are doing something else. But it is definitely a show I would not miss if it was gone.