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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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HBO, April 22, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Veep is a sitcom vehicle, pure and simple, for Julia Louis-Dreyfus-and the first to give her a role that comes close to recapturing the crazy, frenetic dazzle of Seinfeld’s Elaine. She plays Vice President Selina Meyer, a woman a heartbeat away from the presidency and miles outside the loop. Meyer would like to think she’s pushing an agenda of filibuster reform and clean-energy jobs, but she tends to be derailed by small, stingingly humiliating personal defeats. She struggles to eat yogurt at a photo op, for instance, while losing the battle against a stomach bug. The comedy here, as with Elaine, comes from watching Louis-Dreyfus’s sophisticated, furiously sharp timing-she could slash the federal budget to confetti-applied to a character who has the intelligence of a finch. When the veep gets word that the President may have suffered a health crisis, she attempts to hide her delight under a mask of solemnity that keeps slipping, ever so slightly. It’s a beautifully executed display of unstoppable vanity. The show’s chief flaw is that, although plenty of numbskulls have made it into high office, Meyer doesn’t seem to have any more instinct for the power games of politics than New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel. But Louis-Dreyfus is so funny, I’ll table that comment.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Bravo, April 22, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


The disappointingly uneventful launch of season 4 is mostly about taking Teresa Giudice out with the trash: Everyone gossips and complains about the fallout from her notoriety. Gentle Jacqueline Laurita, meanwhile, apparently is stressed out living in the fishbowl provided by Bravo. (She skipped the season 3 reunion show, leaving a nation shaken.) This is always diverting junk, but if these women actually become preoccupied with preserving their dignity, the jig is up.