Between the poles of "The West Wing," where everyone is well-intentioned, and "House of Cards," where no one is, falls the HBO comedy "Veep."
The Emmy-winning series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer — the titular vice president as the series launches — spent seven seasons giving viewers an inside look at politics as practiced by frail politicians.
Each half hour depicts a sort of slow-moving train wreck, lurching from over-the-top absurdities to the painfully quotidian, with the characters as likely to be grappling with choosing a flavor of frozen yogurt at a photo opportunity as negotiating a peace deal at an international summit.
The producers said they often despaired trying to satirize politics during the Trump era, since the most over-the-top scenes they could imagine would sometimes actually happen before their TV versions made it to air.
It was a good question the past few years whether Veep was predicting actual events or politicians were enacting "Veep" episodes.
The week after the election, as Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell and Colorado’s own Jenna Ellis were challenging the results, Giuliani put on what looked for all the world like a community theater production of discarded "Veep" scripts. It started when the president announced on Twitter that his legal team was holding a press conference at the “Four Seasons, Philadelphia” — only to clarify soon after that the event would take place not at the luxury hotel but at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which turned out to be situated between a crematorium and an adult bookstore on the outskirts of town.
A couple weeks later, after seemingly endless promises that they would “release the Kraken” — a reference to a mythical sea monster — Powell would soon be jettisoned from the team for floating conspiracy theories too outlandish even for the Trump crew. But Giuliani did his best to keep the "Veep" comparisons going at another press conference where the hair dye literally melted down his face as he ranted about Hugo Chavez, "My Cousin Vinny" and the Clinton Foundation.
In an attempt to usher out a year that seemed to last a decade, we thought it might be easier to put 2020 behind us by imagining the year as a series of scenes from "Veep."
These are some of the "Veep"-iest moments in Colorado politics this year.
Out of the gate, Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert set the stage for numerous moments in her campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a co-chair of the Colorado Trump campaign, by arguing that the staunch Trump loyalist wasn’t Trumpy enough.
Trump wholeheartedly endorsed Tipton on Twitter, but that didn’t stop Boebert from claiming she was the true keeper of the president’s flame.
As the June primary approached, Boebert launched a TV commercial airing only on the Fox News Channel that made Tipton as an honorary member of “The Squad,” the group of young, progressive Democratic women aligned with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — known as AOC and the very embodiment of the scary liberalism Boebert said she was running against.
For good measure, Boebert threw in references to Boulder, maintaining in the ad that Tipton had co-sponsored a coronavirus relief bill meant to bail out the liberal oasis.
The bill in question made it possible for federal aid to go to local governments with populations under 500,000 — fixing a quirk in an earlier congressional package that had excluded smaller entities from receiving aid. It meant that every city, town and county in Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District would be eligible for some help instead of being shut out by an oversight in the earlier legislation.
Presumably, that’s the kind of thing constituents want from their member of Congress.
Boebert, however, seized on the fact that Boulder would also qualify for federal funds under the bill and blasted her primary opponent. Tipton, the ad said, is "teaming up with AOC and her 'Squad' to give Boulder a bailout … Say no to Tipton's Boulder bailout. Say no to Scott Tipton.”
After unseating Tipton in the primary, Boebert's earlier flirtation with the QAnon conspiracy and the law-and-order candidate's rap sheet and arrest warrants for snubbing court dates — "I even got a pretty mugshot out of it," she cracked on the campaign trail — set up whole episodes' worth of "Veep"-style antics.
John Hickenlooper — notorious for verbal fumbles dubbed “Hickenbloopers” — also stepped in it during an online racial justice forum with Andrew Romanoff held at the height of protests over the death of George Floyd. After the moderators asked what “Black Lives Matter” meant to him, Hickenlooper first sidestepped the question and then answered, “Black Lives Matter means that every life matters.”
Immediately, the forum’s viewers slammed Hickenlooper’s response as painfully tone-deaf — uncomfortably close as it was to the slogan “All Lives Matter,” which is often deployed to downplay concerns about systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Hickenlooper’s answer prompted a quick clarification from his campaign — effectively, an admission that the candidate hadn’t meant “every life matters,” except that is what he had meant, except not the way it could have been misunderstood.
“Black lives matter,” Hickenlooper tweeted. “For too long, our country has shamefully tolerated inequality. Systemic racism has permeated our criminal justice system and every corner of our society. People have the right to peacefully protest this injustice without fear of violence.”
Two weeks later, Hickenlooper was again clarifying — this time with his “deepest apologies” — some resurfaced 2014 remarks comparing the plight of busy politicians to galley slaves at the mercy of whip-wielding slave drivers.
“If I was to describe a scheduler, a political scheduler — imagine an ancient slave ship with the guy with the whip, and you're rowing — we elected officials are the ones that are rowing," he said in a brief video clip that drew condemnation from the left and the right.
“Taking a look at this video from six years ago, I recognize that my comments were painful. I did not intend them to be. I offer my deepest apologies," Hickenlooper said in a statement.
Denver Public Schools board member and protest leader Tay Anderson wasn’t satisfied, instead asking if Hickenlooper would "commit to going through an equity and implicit bias training.”
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the national GOP, got in her own dig on social media, calling on Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats “to condemn this.”
As the year slogged on, the "Veep" moments piled up.
Amid mounting protests decrying racism and calling for police reform, state Rep. Dave Williams breathlessly sounded the alarm over a flier the Colorado Springs Republican claimed was "found outside the CO Capitol."
The purported "antifa recruitment" flier, already widely debunked as a risible hoax, was filled with what might be described as a young conservative's fevered notion of the far left's priorities — declaring Hillary Clinton was the rightful president "forced into exile," and claiming the Colorado teachers union as a sponsor, with the occasional homophobic slur tossed in for good measure — and even drew a rebuke on Twitter from Jenna Ellis.
Addressing her tweet to Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser, Ellis asked: "[A]re you aware of this? Denouncing this? Investigation? Security? Arrests?”
On the day before Thanksgiving, Colorado's political world finally jumped the shark.
That's when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock hopped a flight to Mississippi from Denver International Airport, just moments after pleading with residents to "Avoid travel, if you can," to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
It's an unfortunate development familiar to most sitcom viewers when the show keeps trying to top itself and the writers start hitting their points too on-the-nose. At that point, it's probably best just to change the channel.