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'Veep's' first daughter: The unbearable burden of being Catherine

Veep is tremendous in the way it unabashedly makes its characters suffer. There’s an interesting inverse relationship happening: The more the characters suffer, the more we feel for them. The the more we feel for them, the more we root from them to triumph. The more we want them to triumph, the more we need to see them suffer. Case in point: Tony Hale, as President Selina Kyle’s incompetent assistant, won an Emmy for his performance as President Selena Meyer’s emotional punching bag. The show makes schadenfreude an art form.

Each episode feels like a round of Russian roulette of which character is going to have the worst day ever on Capitol Hill. No one is safe; for three and a half seasons, the scheming, narcissistic Dan Egan has manipulated every situation, but was recently fired as a scapegoat to take the heat for a potential scandal. Last night, Amy Bruckheimer, Selena’s longtime chief of staff and then campaign manager, seems to be the sufferer of the week after having an epic meltdown and told telling Selena that there will never be another female president because people will see that she failed at it. (Please give Anna Chlumsky the Emmy this year.) But there’s one person who always seems to be on the losing side: Selina’s daughter, Catherine.

Through the show’s three previous seasons, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) has struggled to please her mother as the vice president, and now president. She always has the problem of being and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time—at least as far as the press goes. As a college student, her mother scolded her for writing a film-analysis paper on Iraq. She then introduced her mother to her Iraqi-born boyfriend. Selena can’t even make Catherine a priority at Catherine’s disastrous 21st-birthday bash, and manages to bring work into it.

Veep

 

To scratch at the wound even more, Catherine even fails when she tries really hard not to. She attempts to play with children at the White House Easter egg hunt, but the children hate her. Paparazzi take unflattering pictures of her. She accidentally wears the same outfit as Selena at a speech, and Selena tells her to change, then still lambasts her outfit. Public opinion shows that Catherine is not liked, and her own mother doesn’t even have the courage to tell her; she makes her strategist, Mike (Gary Cole), tell her. Last week, she became engaged to be married and was eager to tell her mother. Of course, she was overshadowed by Selena’s triumphant glory over international peacekeeping.

Two standout scenes from this season show the amazing acting dynamic of Sutherland and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. One is when they are getting their hair done for an event. Selena criticizes her daughter’s smile, then helps her find a new one, then immediately insults her looks again. Catherine is defeated.

This week, Catherine is prepping for her speech for the annual convention, and getting nothing but insults from Selena and her advisor, Karen (ugh, Karen). After smiling through Catherine’s announcement of finding love, Selena tells her, “You look like you’re kidnapped by the Taliban.” Even kissing her fiancé is criticized.

Ironically, Catherine is the person on the show who is least deserving of humiliation and abuse. She is constantly trying to do the right thing and always trying to help her mother. What makes Catherine so compelling—and the lovable Eeyore of the ensemble—is Sarah Sutherland’s subtle facial expressions of complete defeat. She takes the abuse because she knows she has to.

Besides, she knows what’s in store for her as the first daughter. Er, that is, the daughter of a president who is elected, not appointed. We know Selena to be a selfish person (as is everyone else on the show, to be fair), but does she truly despise her daughter? No; I think she’s just a victim of a woman trying to have it all. Selena’s legacy as the first female president is under so much pressure that she can’t have anything—even something her daughter does wrong—get in the way of that. But that doesn’t make anything better for Catherine.

How is it that this show has the ability to make us love the characters the more they suffer? These aren’t the most morally upstanding characters ever, but the genius thing about Veep is that its modus operandi is to put everyone through hellish situations so that we want them to succeed at all costs.

Maybe Catherine has to suffer in order for her triumph over Selena will be that much more satisfying … when it finally happens.

Veep airs Sundays at 10:30/9:30C on HBO.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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