I recently watched HBO’s Veep, and for the most part I’d say it is a very enjoyable show, but its use of Gary Cole has been pretty lacking. For three of this show’s four seasons, Gary Cole plays the role of Kent Davidson, the ultra efficient and ultra impersonal senior strategist at the White House. Starting in season 2 as an antagonistic force for the titular Veep Selina Meyers, his debut episode showed actual hints at what he could bring to the ensemble, or more accurately, what he could bring out of the characters around him. These early hints of greatness however, have mostly gone untapped in the seasons that followed. This to me, is tragic, because Gary Cole is like a precious commodity, a natural resource that everyone needs in their lives, and one whose misuse should be greatly frowned upon.
Kent Davidson’s most important connection to the cast comes through with his past with Selina. In one of the few truly emotional moments in the series, Selina reveals her contempt for him because of the way he advised her to appear friendly with her scumbag ex-husband in order to win her bid for presidency, only to fail in the end anyways and end up as Vice-President. Politicians aren’t inhuman, most of them just appear like desperate people pleasing automatons because of guys like Kent taking polls and telling them they need to behave a certain way to get voters. They create warm personas for people using cold and detached machines and processes. It’s the duality between that fakeness which comes from the desire to appear genuine that lies at the heart of the show, and it’s a real shame it never got to explore that further through Kent and Selina.
What has Kent been doing all this time you may wonder? Well, mostly just being… there. In fact that seems to be a problem with Veep in general; it has a huge cast of talented actors but there’s a definite sense that it could use some cuts since almost no one besides the core cast from season 1 has anything to do (what the hell does Bill Ericsson add to the ensemble really?). Besides standing around and spouting one liners, Kent had a brief flirtation with the Veep’s secretary, Sue. This was weird and went nowhere. It was dropped in the show’s most recent season, but now we’re left with the same exact Kent problem as before. Sure there are some golden moments like when Kent had to inform Catherine (the Veep’s daughter and perhaps the shows secret weapon) that “America doesn’t like you”, but for the most part it feels like he’s just hanging out.
I wouldn’t be making this kind of post if I didn’t think the character had potential for something greater. We have an intensely charismatic performer in Gary Cole, a character with hints of deep emotional ties to the show’s star, and a personality whose entire conceit is central to the series’ main satirical message. I’m just asking for Kent to live up to the potential he displayed in his first appearance, and while I’m not saying the entire show hangs in the balance, it certainly couldn’t hurt to properly utilize the cast’s Gary Cole resources.
Quote of the Day (And the one Kent/Sue exchange I really enjoyed because it humourously highlighted the horrors of being a black woman in a predominantly white field):
Kent: Sue, forgive me, but have you altered your hair perhaps?
Sue: I got it chemically relaxed. It was enormously painful.
Kent: Well… it seems to be working for you.