Television

Elaine Goes to Washington

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the HBO comedy Veep, is best known for playing Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, a show that famously featured people who were not very admirable to begin with and never improved. Veep amplifies that attitude with characters who range from mean to pathetic and who display comically large capacities for vanity, pettiness, and vindictiveness. Since they are political operatives, these traits seem more plausible than the foibles of George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer.

Ideology takes a back seat to ambition on Veep, which is set mainly in the offices of Selina Meyer, a resentful, scheming, self-centered vice president played by Louis-Dreyfus. Meyer has enough of a conscience to feel bad about her involvement in a military operation that costs a Marine his leg, but she deals with her guilt pangs by instructing her staff to keep amputees at a distance. It says something about the loathsomeness of the show's other characters that you often find yourself rooting for her. —Jacob Sullum