SPEC WRITING ROAD MAP By Guy Jackson and Michael Ferris SERIES OVERVIEW AND CONCEIT: "VEEP" is a comedy

series created by Armando Iannucci for HBO, concerning the daily tribulations of fictional vice president Selina Meyer, and her hapless staff. The series has a foundation of utter intimacy, is almost claustrophobic in sticking with Selina and those few surrounding her. Conversations often take place in whispers, in hushed tones, in urgent close-ups and medium shots. To illustrate this intimacy further, in the entire first season the President was never once seen, and the show rarely has an exterior shot, beyond probably stock footage of an occasional motorcade. With this intimacy comes only seven major characters, a mere handful for a subject as epic as a vice president. So keep in mind when writing your spec not to get epic, to stay close and intimate. With only a couple of exceptions, the episodes of "VEEP" happen in real time, the events of an episode usually occurring in a single day or a matter of hours. The show juxtaposes real political issues like Clean Jobs and Filibuster Bills against inanities like corn starch utensils or whether the Vice President is feuding with the First Lady. There's always a motif of Wheel Spinning. No one can ever get anything done. There's nothing episodic about "VEEP", either, everything and nothing is always happening simultaneously, and one line of dialogue concerning the A plot can be followed by another line of dialogue concerning the B plot. Make sure you collage, weave, compress, and stack your plots and events. And stack them in such a way that you are stressing out the characters, making everything inconvenient and coming at the wrong moment at the wrong time. A great illustration of both collaging plots and intimacy: Selina found out a grinning, touchy-feely photographer at a baseball event could read lips, and then when she had to discuss her pending pregnancy test over the phone she had to turn her back to avoid getting her secret conversation lip read, resulting in the line: 'I can't move my lips." The show takes a somewhat dim view of government, depicting it as a place where nothing, but nothing, gets done, or can get done, but at times the dim view turns appreciative, and may actually be pointing out that the reason government can't get anything done is because of the incessant interruptions from the people, and the media that the government is governing. At times, then, the show almost says: 'Look at these heroic wheelspinners, pushing their boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down again.'


hard-to-catch titles. not anything whatsoever.. that of Selina trying to set up a Clean Jobs Task Force. and drinks Selina. It's as though Selina was once a confidant woman who pulled herself up by her own bootstraps. and Amy said it was her own self in the same situation to fend off the reporters. as when Selina confided her pregnancy to Amy. Her victories are excruciatingly short-lived and her failings are overwhelming." AMY BROOKHEIMER (ANNA CHLUMSKY): All of Selina's assistants have nebulous. Primarily. Every once in awhile. deep-seated friendship is evidenced between the two women. Gary. and this was most in evidence in the first season's penultimate episode. she eats. and she couldn't even accomplish that. moving between barely contained outbursts to outbursts to infinite weariness to a passionate tryst to a penultimate episode nervous breakdown. The first season featured a single continuing thread. And Selina is lost. hopelessly circles inane nonsense. and she has a despondent. put-upon. however. Personal life-wise.CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS: MAJOR CHARACTERS: SELINA MEYERS (JULIA LOUISE-DREYFUS): Always frustrated by the way she can get nothing done.A. Selina spins her wheels. and was once blackmailed into a date . She is beleaguered. remember that she can simply never get anything. however. Representative Dialogue: "I want a name and a severed head to go with the name to answer to me if that head could talk. often going without an original thought beyond asking her P. when Amy 'took a pregnancy hit'. and at the end of her rope to match Selina's constant low or high-toned eruptions. gets stuck in the moment. to get her a cup of coffee. done or done right. but in the corridors of power she was consumed by all the people there to 'help'. a genuine. sleeps. but best guess is that Amy is Selina's chief of staff. neglected daughter who seems quite nice but misses her long lost mother. dwells on little nothings. in writing for Selina. Selina had gotten pregnant and then lost the baby. a constant tide. One line of "VEEP" dialogue that represents her unending frustration to a T: "So we have 2 Catch-22s simultaneously?" All this frustration results in Selina forever erupting. Like the rest of Selina's employees. there's been a few mentions of a divorce (she's now single). She's a drowning woman. Amy's sense of duty is powerful. Amy once had a brief affair with Dan. and overwhelmed by getting in too much of a habit of needing 'help'. She relies heavily on all of her staff.

and wants very much to replace the aging Mike as Director. Gary also knows the names and personal details of everyone in Washington. He also once had a brief tryst with Amy. Amy is entirely capable of being one gnarly bastard. it's a tower of shit. her daughter's name is such-and-such and just went to college at so-and-so'. schleppy Director Of Communications. Representative Dialogue: "Your tea's almost ready. but otherwise very little of Gary's personal life has been mentioned. He's a ladykiller as well. He hauls around a massive suitcase with a million pockets. and can play guitar. and it was once pointed up in a subplot that he was sired by a jock father who bullied his son. he's like the Horse Whisperer. Gary is a lurker. absolutely loyal personal assistant." Meaning Gary's being forever ready to lean in and whisper to Selina 'It's Senator So-And-So. and once entertained a grade school classroom with jazz moves on the guitar. As with the rest of the staffers. and kept it as an excuse for years to get out of working all hours and having no life. but always quick with the spin. He's a suck-up to the nth degree. and the only one in the show who doesn't seem to have a vicious streak. and is always ready with Handi Wipes. look. gum." GARY WALSH (TONY HALE): Selina's soft-spoken. Mike is also constantly paranoid. a shadow. and any other sundry item. jazz moves that he uses for seduction. but in the first episode Dan dumped the daughter and winnowed his way onto Selina's staff. But he works all hours and has no life. a toothbrush. look at him. Gary lives in a state of quiet desperation. MIKE MCLINTOCK (MATT WALSH): The tired. best represented in her greeting line to the tall Jonah: "Oh. his new deputy. . aging as he is while in a young person's game. Playing off his job title. Mike has conjured a fantastical dog that he has at home. Dan was once in the employ of the harsh Senator Hallowes. aging. but otherwise her personal life seems non-existent. suffering his acid reflux and burning glumness. hand sanitizer. and is constantly upstaged by Dan. as well as dating her daughter. and was once referred to thus: "Jesus. Dan and Mike are always head-to-head. as Dan is Deputy Director of Communications. meek. straightaway dubbed 'a shit' by Amy." DAN EGAN (REID SCOTT): The newest member of Selina's staffers. Mike has a terrible time communicating anything to anyone.with Jonah.

and seeing him after women. firing off single line crushers or zapping out orders for people to shut up or go away. and seeing him at his favorite diner. or he'll appear to coyly scold Selina about some mistake or another she or her staff has made. and then he'll often appear again to yell at everyone when some shit or another hits the fan. Sue is the icy. Jonah is always looking for a good time. we somehow know the most about Jonah. like reporter Leon West. during repartee in front of Sue's desk. By the same token Jonah is a lothario. Representative Dialogue: "He's a hollow Trojan horse. Sue and Selina have a running joke that's a joke to neither of them.Characters constantly reflect this paranoia. Next to nothing has been revealed about Sue. rubbing their noses in his Presidential Aide status. As a physical illustration of his helplessness. JONAH RYAN (TIMOTHY SIMONS): The despised White House aide. Jonah usually puts in an appearance to lord it over the vice president's staff at the beginning of each episode. Jonah's always angling. secure in himself and so forever indignant that he gets called 'Dick Cake' and 'Skyscraper of Shit' (he's quite tall). and was heaped with abuse and ridicule. from the fist of a bun in her hair to her razor sharp business suits. So she does have a 'get dressed to the nines' side. as when he bribed Gary over a greeting card incident into getting him (Jonah) a date with Amy." SUE WILSON (SUFE BRADSHAW): Brooking no bullshit whatsoever. and has had some weird moments of near-friendship with Dan (when Dan was pressing him for inside information) where the two wound up having lunch in a bad diner and going to a speed/thrash metal rock concert. is it designed that way?" . resulting in Jonah hitting on her. But by seeing him at his thrash metal concert. who in both his appearances nastily upbraided Mike for being incompetent. in which Selina says: "Did the President call?" and Sue says: "No. sour-faced secretary who hovers at the desk rammed against the wall by the door to Selina Meyers' office." When writing your spec. once getting so desperate to take a woman home from one fundraiser he tried and failed to pick up Sue. Representative Dialogue: "I can see right through your shirt. and otherwise is pristinely put together. throw this exchange in once or twice. in one episode Mike couldn't stop sweating in the Washington heat. but for one fundraiser she did get dressed to the nines.

coming nor going nor going nor staying. note that a vast majority of the goings-on take place at the door to the vice president's office. But here's the thing: really. right there on the threshold of the vice president's office. awkwardly. where Selina will perch or slump in her high-backed leather chair. By the same token. he's twice appeared. right in the nexus of floorspace in front of Sue's receptionist desk. She's also prone to bursts of frustration over her neglect. no place to stop and sit for the frantic. bitter reporter from the Washington Post. a lot of the show also takes place in backseats of limos and corridors and hallways. cynical. as in one moment where. Sometimes there are sorties out and about to yogurt shops. in keeping with the show's frantic. only to be denied a story and swear brutal vengeance upon Selina's staffers. right there at the doorway. but likely all these hallways and staircases and doorways and limo rides simply mean is there no place to settle down. LEON WEST (BRIAN HUSKEY): An angry. so you control the weather now?" SENATOR DOYLE (PHIL REEVES): Occasionally seen liberal Senator constantly busting Selina's balls as to the Clean Jobs task force. Katherine blurted out: "Oh. WORLD & SETTING: The show takes place by-and-large in the vice president's office. Staircases as well. Well. a vast room overstuffed with desks and aides being the ante-room to the vice president's chamber. baseball fields. a Corridors Of Power motif perhaps. Katherine certainly seems to conceal a deep inner depression due on her parents' divorce.MINOR CHARACTERS: KATHERINE MEYER (SARAH SUTHERLAND): Selina's daughter. . after Selina had gotten the name of a hurricane changed from 'Selina'. or fundraisers. and they are forever in-between. only seen in one episode. you could say it's 'The Corridors of Power'. scurrying folk of "VEEP". as a wilting wallflower waiting for her mother to have a moment for her. with the cast hustling down this corridor or that. wheel-spinning nature.

. an A. That's the sort of weaving.PLOTTING OVERVIEW: In the first season there was only a single. There was a B plot involving a photographer and a C plot involving Gary. this line was also the revelation of an E plot (changing the name of a hurricane). stacking. Another approach to spec-ing "VEEP" is to simply have three plots. For example. In one episode an oil man needed to be put on the task force but the senator who wanted to lead the task force wouldn't have it so Selina had to manipulate the senator by putting another oil man on the task force which made the senator back down about the first oil man on the task force. this episode resolved itself when someone sneezed at Selina in a meeting about the Clean Jobs Act. Pile-up. A shining example: the 'You control the weather' line mentioned above was the resolution of the B plot (Selina's relationship to her daughter) in that episode. more obstacle courses. This story was often relegated to C plot status. a plot can get up into the teens with its number of beats in any "VEEP" episode. with plot turns happening on a single line. the task force forever encountering quagmires. In this way. while Dan egged Gary on about whether Gary would take a bullet for Selina. with 15 beats. while a nasty flu bug circulated D. and so they could instead be considered 'obstacle courses'. So. the manipulations of Selina attempting (she never finished doing so) to get together a Clean Jobs Task Force. then passed the flu to Selina in time for her to crumple in a diarrhea mess when she visited the yogurt shop. in a rush. Gary blocked the sneeze and caught the flu. while the Filibuster Bill needed to be resolved with the Clean Jobs act. If by 'plots' we mean inciting incident followed by conflict followed by resolution. All the best episodes are over before you know it. and let this speed make the spec easier on you. to illustrate the point of "VEEP" having car crash plots. In the pregnancy episode (which we'll discuss in more detail below) Selina was trying to hold a . B. such as they are. happen all at once. overriding plot spine throughout the entire series. But the rest of the 'plots' might've looked like plots but they never really began nor ended nor had much conflict. A story beat in this show can literally mean a single line of dialogue. right on top of each other. in real time.C. (see "Plot Skeleton" below). That sort of thing. then the way "VEEP" operates often enough will be to take its three plots through some sort of obstacle course which isn't really exactly a plot. the plots of "VEEP". In fact. Deceptively simple. C plot. in the episode where the question became whether Selina was pregnant. compressing. It's vastly important to keep things happening breathlessly when writing a "VEEP" spec. and then have other 'plots' be less plots. One great and breathless episode involved Selina's decision to show some 'normalcy' and get a photo op at a frozen yogurt shop. and just rattled and flailed around in the background in most episodes. and collaging you want to achieve. that was the A plot.

it was only a gauntlet for Selina to run as she learned whether she was pregnant. things happen so fast that the A plot's first beat can occur only several lines into an episode. and the stories will often simply wander into an epilogue. Again. or tag.1st beat of A plot: Selina confesses she might be pregnant to Amy 5. Note that there are no commercial breaks. 'does the father know'? 'abortion'? 7.Healthy Eating Initiative.2nd beat of B plot: Photographer gets too close with picture taking. buy a pregnancy test 9.3rd beat of A plot: Selina asks Amy to keep it quiet.1st beat of C plot: Gary confesses that his father is a bullying jock. but as she wrassled with her possible pregnancy. 11.4th beat of A plot: Amy tells Mike about pregnancy via cell 10. As discussed above. the Healthy Eating Initiative went badly with some grumpy attendants and then got trapped in a room because of a gas leak and then wound up on a baseball field meeting the baseball players. the Healthy Food Initiative being at a baseball stadium functions as an obstacle course to the other plots. PLOT SKELETON: Here's an example skeleton for an episode. but before that the B and C plots will have already kicked off… OPENING TITLES 1. giving Selina's shoulder a brief squeeze 3.1st beat of B plot: a Photographer turns out to be touchy-feely. is upbraided by Selina 8.2nd beat of C plot: Gary shows off his 'assistant bag' to reassure his lack of manliness in the face of thinking about his jock father 6. 2. whom he's thinking of as they're at the stadium 4. there are plots and then there are 'plots'. the 6th episode of the first season (entitled "BASEBALL").1st beat of D plot: Food & Manufacturing reps complain at the Healthy Food Initiative. Also note that "VEEP" is topsy-turvy in terms of which plot comes first.2nd beat of A plot: Selina and Amy strategize about pregnancy. the latter which amount to little more than obstacle courses to stymie the progression of the actual plots. Nothing technically happened in this 'plot'. 3rd beat of C plot: Gary promises his father via cell an autographed photo of the baseball team 5th beat of A plot: Dan mistakes Amy's buying pregnancy test as Amy . at the end.

being pregnant 12. This spinal plot started in the last episode and continues in the next two episodes. 26. the agent having been fired in-between episodes. reporter on Secret Service story bothers them as well 11th beat of A plot: Selina and Sue find a day (two months previously) on Selina's calendar whereby Ted proposed to her 3rd beat of E plot: Selina arrives at elementary school 12th beat of A plot: Amy and Selina strategize to do pregnancy test at 13. 25. 2nd beat of D plot/3rd beat of B plot: touchy-feely Photographer arranges group photo of Healthy Food Initiative/the meeting becomes trapped in the stadium due on a gas leak 1st beat of E plot: Amy and Dan set up Selina's visit to a school. and that he has to marry her because the press might know 5th beat of B plot: Photographer gets balls busted by Selina for reading her lips re: getting married 5th beat of D plot: Selina escapes stadium after group photo with baseball players 2nd beat of E plot: Dan and Amy work on ways to keep kids at school entertained while waiting on Selina. 16. 24. 27. 3rd beat of D plot: The Healthy Food Initiative reps get grouchy about being trapped 4th beat of B plot/6th beat of A plot: touchy-feely photographer tells Selina he can lip read/she worries he may of lip read re: her pregnancy 7th beat of A plot: in a mix-up between Amy and Mike re: the Secret Service story. 17. 14. again less a plot than an obstacle course for the other plots Beat of Continuing Spine: Mike hears of a firing of a Secret Service agent from a reporter (fired for 'smiling at Selina'). 18. 20. 21. 22. Amy tells Selina the press might know she's pregnant 8th beat of A plot: Amy sends Gary to collect a pregnancy test 4th beat of D plot: Jonah and Selina strategize to bring the Healthy Food Initiative down into the stadium to meet the Orioles baseball players 9th beat of A plot/4th beat of C plot: Gary screws up buying pregnancy test by showing his Veep aide badge to cashier/Gary tells his father he's with the baseball players 10th beat of A plot: Selina tells her secret lover (Ted) she might be pregnant. . 23. 19. 15.

tells his father via cell he got the baseball photo while he works with Selina's urine to find out the result of Selina's pregnancy test 15th beat of A plot/4th beat of E plot: Gary whispers to Selina that she's pregnant in front of the elementary school class 30. and relegate the Photographer plot to C plot status. Just to be confusing. 31. who refuses him 13th beat of A plot: Selina does the pregnancy test. . shakes hands with Photographer (to get him back for touchy-feely. But who's counting? But that's the idea of everything piled on at once. which would lend it the extra beat to make it into the B plot. 5th beat of C plot: Gary tries to get baseball photo from Photographer. Jonah is still the loathed aide de camp from the White House. which usually feature live action. eh? WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Due on the show's theme of Wheel Spinning. Amy and Dan and Mike all survived being fired. still working to be in closer contact with the President and her daughter. Dan finds out it might be Selina who's pregnant 28.elementary school. Gary is still the loyal servant and continuing in his quiet desperation. Selina's gone through her secret relationship to a pregnancy and miscarriage and is out the other side. 29. her and her team quibble over whether the pregnancy has leaked to the press. Selina spills her urine on her hand. The closing credits. and so they continue in their eternal desperation. horrible photos taken by the touchy-feely Photographer depicting Selina scowling. Sue is still the no-bullshit secretary. and the doctored photo Gary was going to give to his father depicting Gary in the group photo with the baseball team. featured photos in the form of a tag. this latter photo is arguably the last beat of the C plot. all of the characters are pretty much in the same place from where they started. thereby hitting the 6th and wrap-up beat of B plot) 14th beat of A plot/6th beat of C plot: Gary lies.