It’s been a well-received season of change for HBO’s Veep, but as we found out when we posed showrunner David Mandel’s 13 questions to fans, there are two things you can count on remaining the same: viewers’ love-hate relationship with Jonah and their shared desire to know what Gary did for Selina on Labor Day.
Read on to see how fans answered Mandel’s queries, as well as his reactions to the most popular responses (including the Labor Day theories he shot down).
1. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Is Selina Meyer a good person in any way? Why do you root for her?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Two-thirds of the fans who responded said they believe Selina has redeeming qualities, though they definitely had to reach to name some. Jess remembered that Selina cares for horses, “an indication she does have a heart.” She roots for Selina because she is “unapologetically female in a man’s world. Quotes like, ‘That’s the least reassuring sentence since ‘It’s OK, it’s just the tip!”’” Ming Nguyen said, “She showed a hint of being a good person in [the abortion episode] ‘The Choice’ in Season 3. She could be a fierce fighter for women’s rights and equality.” Sydney Grullon spoke more generally: “I don’t think she’s inherently awful, I think deep down she thinks what she’s doing is good, at least what she was doing while in office.” Prakram Bhushan, meanwhile, was incredibly specific: “Selina is a good lover. Everyone roots for her.”
As for the naysayers, their position was summed up by Jamie Burgess: “No. She is everything that is bad about politics: no real vision or drive to lead via policy decisions. Making decisions based on polling with no overall agenda for the country or goals. I root for her because of amazing acting by her actor.” Or, put more bluntly by Eman Abdelmouty: “She’s the absolute worst. Yet we love Selina because a.) she kept it together while holding the nuclear codes, she never grabbed people by the p***y. b). Julia Louis-Dreyfus.”
MANDEL RESPONDS: Hearing that last answer, Mandel can only laugh: “Have our standards for what a president is dropped so far in the last two years that this is what we’re saying is good about Selina Meyer?” But looking at the big picture … “I find that [two-thirds number] fascinating, because I think she’s a horrible person! I think it’s a credit to Julia that she has found a way to make people care about this character. I like to think it’s a credit to Armando [Iannucci, the show’s creator] and the previous writers, and my current writers, that we can make you root for a terrible person. We love that dichotomy.”
Did Selina have good intentions when she was in office? Mandel thinks Jamie’s read was correct: “I think she only really tried to do good if she thought it was politically expedient. We do spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that she’s not 100 percent terrible at her job. I think people forget that she did rise up through the political system, and that requires a certain amount of street-fighting skills and an inherent political sense, and she has that. But I do think being skilled is different than being a good person. I don’t think she particularly wants to help the world. I think even when she’s ‘nice,’ there’s usually ulterior motives or things that will get her to throw it away in a second.”
And as for the assessment of Selina’s sexual prowess: “I think she would take a lot of pride in knowing that people think she’s good in bed,” he says. “I think that would be important to her.”
2. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What character on our show would you least like to work for?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The top vote getter was Jonah, with Dan as the runner-up (“I would need to work for someone who has a soul,” Minh wrote of the latter). Votes were also cast for notoriously incompetent Mike, groper Teddy, vicious Roger Furlong, war hero Danny Chung, stoic Kent (“Hard to read and even harder to please,” Jamie insisted), and puppet master Ben. “That guy has shown his dark side way too many times (Dan’s ‘resignation’) and has probably done some nasty stuff during his career,” Viktor Cegledi reasoned. “Plus, he has that weird nickname, ‘Buttf***er.'”
MANDEL RESPONDS: He was shocked his personal pick, Amy, got no votes. “No votes? Oh my God, she’s the worst! I think she’s that kind of boss that would give you things to do, and before you even had 30 seconds to do it, she’d be asking where it was, and then she would take it back from you and do it herself. And there’s nothing you could do that would ever satisfy her,” he says.
As for the others: “I understand the Jonah one, but I think there’s an opportunity if you’re the right person. For example, when the beautiful men were working for Jonah last year as interns, and he really sort of took to them. I think he could be a great boss if he somehow liked you, or thought you were like, ‘his guy.’ Obviously he’s got a hair-trigger temper, but I do think the sun can shine from Jonah,” he says. “I think it’d be very fun to work for Dan. I guess as long as you weren’t a good-looking woman. I guess that would be a real problem. I think then you’re sort of in Bill O’Reilly territory. An incompetent boss [like Mike] is the greatest thing in the world — then you can do what you like. I agree [about Danny Chung] — you’d get very sick of hearing about a tank and stuff. Kent is certainly hard to read, but again, if you were the right kind of person for a lot of these people, I think you could survive. If you did your job and stayed quiet, I think Ben would be harsh, but he would be relatively fair. I think if you were a math person, Kent might actually take to you. To me, what defines the worst is that there’s nothing you can do. Furlong, I think would be up there with Amy. That’s just a horrific job. Will looks like he has PTSD sometimes. I don’t know quite what he’s doing there, but it’s kind of wonderful.”
3. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Do you think Homeland would benefit from a Jonah-type character? Who on that show should we trade him for?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Mandel admits some of his questions weren’t necessarily designed to be answered. Still, a few folks went for it. Ethan Hart gave a vague response: “I’m not sure, but I would love to see a Veep character cry like Carrie on Homeland.” Sonia Murray, however, was very specific (Homeland spoiler alert!): “I think Jonah would be great on Homeland. We trade him for the sadly now deceased Peter Quinn. I feel like the possibility of Jonah’s impending death would be just as nerve-racking as all the times Quinn was in danger. Except the desired outcome would be the opposite: we’d be holding our breath to see if Jonah would escape danger but we’d be super upset and disappointed each time he survived…”
MANDEL RESPONDS: “That’d be very funny,” he says of having a Carrie-type crier. But don’t we already have Catherine? Catherine does go kind of the full Claire Danes. She Danes-es it up,” he says. As for that Jonah scenario, “Maybe Jonah could get tortured. That could be enjoyable. Captured and kidnapped by some sort of terrorist act and put in a room with Sarin gas, like Peter Quinn.” His personal pick for a crossover? “This is not exactly an answer, but I’d kind of love to see a sit-down between Ben and Saul. I think those are two old souls that would really enjoy each other’s company.”
4. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What do you think will happen first: America electing a female president or Gary wearing corduroy?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: They weren’t happy about it, but roughly 60 percent said Gary wearing corduroy.
MANDEL RESPONDS: “Sadly, I think they’re right,” he says. And to answer Jamie’s question, “Why would Gary wearing corduroy not happen? He seems goofy enough to pull it off,” he simply says, “I think he just thinks corduroy is not very tasteful.”
5. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What’s your favorite episode of Veep?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Season 5’s “Mother” — in which Selina lost both her mom and, perhaps more importantly, the popular vote — got three times the nods of any other episode. As Sydney wrote, “‘Mother.’ By a landslide. Between Sarah Sutherland’s Emmy worthy ugly crying and JLD’s Emmy-winning performance, I cry from laughter every time I watch this episode.” Other episodes tying for second with numerous shout-outs include Season 2’s “D.C.” and “The Vic Allen Dinner” (as Eman said, “It has everything: Kent being evil, ‘You’re a meme, ma’am,’ Selina singing, the line ‘Jolly Green Ji** Face.‘”); Season 4’s “Election Night”; and Season 5’s “Congressional Ball” and “Kissing Your Sister” (aka Catherine’s documentary).
MANDEL RESPONDS: “It doesn’t surprise me that people like ‘Mother.’ I love ‘Mother.’ I guess it surprises me that it was such a clear winner, just because it’s that typical sort of thing — it’s hard to pick among your children, as they say. I think any opportunity where Selina can be dealing with a real political issue, a real piece of politics, and at the same time, we can mix in a personal issue — and it doesn’t necessarily mean someone’d be dying, but just anything smaller and personal — that’s a great combination for Veep. And I think ‘Mother’ fits into that world.” If he had to single out a personal favorite, it would be “Kissing Your Sister,” just because he had so much fun directing it. “I enjoyed it just because of the fun and the silliness of all the different time periods and all that kind of stuff, the chance to do sort of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, and that kind of a thing.”
6. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Is it pronounced “CH-lumsky” or “K-lumsky”? We’ve never been sure, and now it’s kind of too late to ask her.
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The majority got it right (K-lumsky). A few suggested either watching an interview online in which Anna says it herself (see above), or simply just calling her “Anna” to be safe.
MANDEL RESPONDS: “I just make it a policy never to say Anna’s last name,” he says. “It’s sort of the way I treat my in-laws, which is, I never say their name, because my instinct is to call them Mr. … And I’m certainly not gonna call them by their first name, so I just avoid calling them.”
7. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What line of work would best suit Mike McLintock?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Fans had many suggestions: “a job with least or no stress, like ticket salesman to a museum which no one visits”; “a tired-but-friendly high school teacher who interacts well with the students (because doesn’t do his job and doesn’t teach)”; “Uber driver who keeps trying to show you photos of his children”; “shift supervisor at a small-town grocery store”; “food critic, Daily Mail journalist, Trump PR team”; “Boat rental, he seems really into boats”; or babysitting — both humans and pets.
MANDEL RESPONDS: “I could see that,” he says of Mike as an ineffective but well-liked high school teacher. As for the other options: “He owned a boat in the past and then had trouble getting rid of said boat, so I think he would be very happy in the boat world, although I don’t think there’s a lot of money in boat rental,” he says. “He’d love to be a food critic. I think he’d love to go to restaurants and be able to eat, but I’m not quite sure he’d have a lot to say.” His take? “I feel like the real road not taken for him would’ve been like a children’s dentist. I think it would have suited him quite well, and I would have really enjoyed seeing him in one of those dental smock things.”
8. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Our writing offices were one flight above Rizzoli & Isles. Are you a Rizzoli or an Isles?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: So 50 percent had no idea the former TNT series existed. Forty percent said they were a Rizzoli (Angie Harmon’s blue-collar detective character) and 10 percent said they were an Isles (Sasha Alexander’s more polished medical examiner).
MANDEL RESPONDS: “I think that speaks to what’s going on in America, to the anti-intellectualization,” he says. “I think Isles is clearly smarter. She’s a scientist. And I think this is the problem, it started many years ago, which is that people are looking down on elitism and education. They were putting those two things together and thinking that education is bad, and I’m sorry, I think that’s wrong.” On a personal note, Mandel says the Rizzoli & Isles writers were wonderful neighbors. “They sent us something when we won the Emmy. They were very lovely, we miss them, and my mom loved the show,” he says.
9. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Could Veep exist on a regular TV network?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Please. Ninety-nine percent of fans said no, with most lamenting the would-be loss of the Season 5 episode “C***gate” and the series’ signature insults. As Erica Macy-Lesperance wrote, “I wouldn’t want Veep to air on a regular network because I don’t want to lose any of Selina’s colorful vocabulary. That’s Washington D.C. for you… District of C***s!”
MANDEL RESPONDS: “They’re not wrong,” he says. He does like the “intellectual exercise” of imagining how the show could be done without TV-MA language. “But it really is impossible,” he says. “The problem is, I’m happy to get rid of the incidental swearing. We talk a lot about that. Because it’s HBO, and it’s Veep, there’s a tendency for the actors and the writers to just throw in the casual “that f***king thing” because you can. We police that and try to not have that, so that when you do get a chance to say “f***” it’s a very special “f***.”
Does the language make it difficult to choose clips to use at awards shows? On the contrary. “It’s sort of fun,” Mandel says. His favorite experience was when the American Film Institute showed clips from the 10 series it was honoring and, alphabetically, Veep came last. “So the other nine, most of them were dramas. There were a couple of comedies: Atlanta was in there, I think Better Call Saul had a very funny clip, because they’re a comedy-drama kind of a thing. And you got to us, and it was the clip of Selina yelling at Penny Nickerson from ‘Congressional Ball,’ and she just tears into her and her dress, and how she’s gonna shake her district like a nanny from South America, and up her husband’s ass with cancer, all this stuff. It just was so stunning to hear the language in this giant ballroom at the Four Seasons. People started laughing, and then it just started that kind of rolling laughter, because you’d watched nine shows of very clean, normal clips, and then all of a sudden Julia just called down hellfire. And it was very funny, too, because there was no next clip. They were switching over to the movie side, so the lights came up, and there was no one saying like, ‘And now we’ll go over here.’ They were taking a pause, and the pause allowed the laughter to keep rolling, and people kind of stared back at us. It was kinda great.”
— Jesse McLaren (@McJesse) March 31, 2017
10. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: In the Age of Trump, are you less interested in watching a show written by Jewish writers?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: We all know attempts at sarcasm don’t always translate well in print. But it was nice to see Veep’s international fanbase come out to play: “I’m European, and Europe has a wonderful history regarding our attitude towards Jews,” wrote Viktor, who’s from Croatia. “Hahahaha,” Brazilian fan Luiz Guilherme Romagnoli laughed. “I only would be less interested if Trump was the writer. (Luckily I’m not American, then I don’t have to live under Trump direction.)”
MANDEL RESPONDS: “It’s interesting. The international opinion on Trump is quite clear, so I think they are fascinated by [what’s happening], and horrified, much like a lot of Americans. They are looking to Veep for a little bit of comedy, because he makes them so nervous,” he says.
Mandel has stated many times how grateful he is that the writers decided Selina would lose the election and not be in the White House in Season 6. “I don’t think we can compete. The joke I always say is, we would sit around trying to think of the stupidest, dumbest thing a president or his staff could do … and they kind of outdo that on a daily basis.”
Yes, he enjoyed seeing people turn real Trump team gaffes into Veep closing-credits sequences like the executive order one above or Sean Spicer’s infamous Hitler remarks below.
“It was fantastic. I loved it, because it was obviously a salute to the show, but by the way, was also proving my point,” Mandel says. “Even though I think Selina is a little bit anti-Semitic, she’s not nearly as anti-Semitic as the entire Trump administration, so it’s hard to compete.”
11. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What stories would you like to see next season? Please provide a detailed outline with jokes.
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: While multiple fans would enjoy seeing Gary sleep with a Russian spy (“Oh lord,” Mandel says), Cecille had another idea for him: “Gary actually quitting or getting fired from his post? Just because I’d like to see how the two will function without each other and see who suffers the most. I just want to determine who really is the ‘human crutch’ in their relationship.” Another popular suggestion: Jonah ends up running for president — either opposing Selina or with her help. Ethan has it all thought out:
Jonah, given his cancer scare and his ability to relate to the American people (because we’re all Jonahs, really), becomes one of the rising stars within the party and easily wins re-election in the midterms. Party leaders, looking for someone to beat the popular Laura Montez, turn to Jonah to run for President and throw their support behind him. Selina, bitter with Doyle after the debacle in Season 5, begins grooming Jonah to run under the condition that he appoints her Secretary of State, and in return, she’ll finance his campaign. The whole team (reluctantly) returns to work for Jonah’s campaign. In the primaries, Jonah’s run mirrors Selina’s initial run: he starts out popular, but ends up losing to DANNY CHUNG. Chung asks Jonah to be his running mate, and he accepts. The Chung/Ryan ticket goes on to win the election, and they take office. However, proof begins to surface that Chung was actually born overseas (in like Brazil or something unexpected) and he is thrown out of office. Jonah then ascends to the presidency Considering Chung made all the cabinet appointments, there are no new spots for Jonah to offer Selina, except for one newly vacant spot: the vice presidency.
MANDEL RESPONDS: As far as Gary and Selina parting ways, “We think about that. Not exactly that story, per se, but just the notion of ‘Gary on his own,'” he says. “I’m just not sure either of them has the ability to get to that step. Before he walked out the door with his box, he would be back working with her. I’m just not sure it’s feasible for either of them to leave each other.” And while Selina has already expressed interest in running for president again (an idea that Ben, mercifully, shot down in the Season 6 premiere), is Mandel rushing to get her back to Washington? “Not really,” he says. “I feel like the sun has set on her career.”
12. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: Do you want to know what happened on Labor Day?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Yes, 85 percent of people said they’d like to know what Gary and Selina were referring to in Season 4’s legendary “East Wing” blowup when he yelled, “Can you find somebody else who did what I did?” and she responded, “You mean on Labor Day?” About half of those people, without provocation, also added that they’d like to know what was in the trash bag that Selina made Gary retrieve in Season 2’s “Shutdown.” The 15 percent who said no to a Labor Day reveal feel as Eman does: “Some things are more beautiful when left unexplained.”
MANDEL RESPONDS: “I didn’t know the trash bag was on their minds quite as much, but that’s fascinating. I kind of love that. But I also sort of agree [with Eman]: With Labor Day, at some point you worry that there’s no answer that would satisfy anybody,” he says. “But I kinda like the idea of finding out more, so we’ll see what happens.”
13. DAVID MANDEL ASKS: What do you think happened?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS/MANDEL RESPONDS: We read him a list of popular theories. Starting with the most obvious…
Gary disposed of a body for her.
“I’m just gonna simply say too easy. That they murdered somebody — just too easy,” Mandel says.
Gary and Selina were … intimate.
“Not the way they talked about it, no.”
It’s related to Selina’s off-camera miscarriage, revealed in Season 1’s “Full Disclosure.”
“It’s hard to imagine it being something that they had already talked about. It just seems like it has to be something we don’t know about at all.”
Gary had to tell Andrew that Selina wanted a divorce, just as he had to tell Ted about their split in that same Season 1 episode.
“Oh, that’s interesting. I think it’s worse than that.”
Has Mandel decided what happened?
“I don’t have all of it, but there’s a key piece of information that I would love to get in at some point,” he says. “I’m hoping that we’ll get it in this year, but I’m not sure we will. It’s hard to say anything other than that without giving anything away.”
Veep airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.
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