veep season 6 trailer

What About Actual Political Shows?

Shows about Washington itself struggle to maintain that balance between absurdity and reality — their once-satirical plot points now too close for comfort. While accepting the Emmy for Best Actress this year, Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus joked, “Our show started out as political satire, but it now feels more like a sobering documentary.”

Political shows like Veep and House of Cards have lost their punch, if only because Washington itself has become so much like the heightened reality that used to only exist on the small screen.

Like many of the aforementioned shows, Veep expected Hillary Clinton to win on November 8. But unlike those previous series, much of Veep’s story depended on being a counterpart to a Clinton presidency — and now with Trump and his equally absurd staff in the White House, Veep has been defanged.

Veep wanted to be in conversation with a Clinton presidency, but not directly,” Slate posits in its review of the current sixth season of Veep. “Selina would have served as a kind of alt-Hillary, a ball of resentment, confusion, and genuine grievance, relegated to the outskirts of politics, running a corrupt foundation with her walking erection of an ex-husband, turning Veep into a hilariously deflating counterfactual about the Clinton administration.”

House of Cards too, with its cunning but frustratingly incompetent president (Kevin Spacey) and seeming high stakes, now no longer seems quite as extreme now that Trump — whose nebulous ties to Russia and less-nebulous accusations of sexual assault — sits in the Oval Office.

Dear White People trailer

Comedies Are the Best and Most Potent Medicine

Meanwhile, comedies are flourishing in Trump’s America, using their lighthearted tone to unsuspectingly deliver alarming messages about immigration, racial profiling and more. The first to do this was Black-ish, which offered a raw reaction to the historic November election, tying in black Americans’ history of oppression and their expectations for disappointment.

And then there are show like Jane the Virgin, which has consistently addressed issues of illegal immigration but has upped the ante recently; Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which addressed the issue of racial profiling from both the police and victims’ side; and Superstore, which frequently tackles hot-button issues like gun violence, undocumented immigrants, and labor strikes.

Dear White People, originally a farcical satire as a 2014 film, is now a cutting reflection of reality — first sparking protests of “reverse racism” (not a thing) when the show was picked up by Netflix, then using the longer format to better explore campus racism and “safe spaces.” The show kept the film’s witty, light tone up until the fifth episode, which dealt with the everyday danger many young black men have to deal with: a law enforcement officer with a gun. The powerful episode directed by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), was game-changing, forgoing the show’s own “safe space” of humor and levity for a silent stand-off that echoed the tragic deaths of Tamir Rice or Mike Brown. And it was a story that Dear White People creator Justin Simien had been wanting to tell since he directed the 2014 film. TV gave him another medium and another chance to do that.

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