The great Julia Louis-Dreyfus celebrates her 59th birthday on January 13th, 2020. The trailblazing actress has made a career of playing amazing comedic characters for nearly four decades. She has received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and was inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame. In honor of her birthday, let’s revisit the 25 best episodes of her HBO hit “Veep,” ranked worst to best.
“Veep” is the brainchild of British writer, Armando Iannucci, who had previously created the hit BBC political satire, “The Thick of It.” It centers around Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus), the first woman to hold the office of Vice President of the United States, as she navigates holding a pivotal but largely ceremonial position and her attempts to stay relevant. Meyer was previously a senator who had launched her own presidential bid which initially caught steam but eventually flamed out and was forced to take the number two spot on the party’s ticket. Her office is populated by her tense chief of staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), incredibly clumsy communications director Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), very ambitious deputy deputy communications director Dan Egan (Reid Scott), no-nonsense personal secretary Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw), loyal personal aide and bag man Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), childish White House’s liaison to VP’s office Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) and long-suffering daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland).
As the show has progressed, several other central characters have been added to the show’s cast. Among the most notable are high-functioning alcoholic White House chief of staff Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn), cold and statistics-obsessed strategist Kent Davidson (Gary Cole) and relentlessly cheerful aide Richard Splett (Sam Richardson).
From the beginning, critical reaction to “Veep” was very positive, with the first season receiving a score of 72 out of 100 on Metacritic. David Weigand of “The San Francisco Chronicle” wrote that “Everything you fear might be true about how our government works–or doesn’t–becomes hilarious fodder for ‘Veep’s’ biting satire.” Tom Gilatto of “People” singled out the show’s star by saying “The comedy here…comes from watching Louis-Dreyfus’s sophisticated, furiously sharp timing applied to a character who has the intelligence of a finch.” Some weren’t as favorable like Maureen Ryan was at The Huffington Post, writing that the show “isn’t particularly fresh or funny, and most of its jokes are telegraphed from a long way away.” Subsequent seasons have only seen the show’s critical fortunes rise, reaching a series high of 90 out of 100 on Metacritic for its fourth season.
The Emmys have been very kind to “Veep” from the beginning, with a total of 68 nominations and 17 wins, but their level of support took some time to build up. The first season only netted three nominations including Comedy Series, Comedy Actress and Comedy Casting. It was been nominated in those three categories every year. Each subsequent season received the same number or more nominations than the previous one, culminating with 17 nominations at the 2017 Emmys. Its final season earned nine bids in 2019.
Louis-Dreyfus has been the most constant presence for the show at the Emmys, winning the prize for Comedy Actress for all of the show’s seasons thus far. Those wins, combined with her previous wins for “Seinfeld” (Comedy Supporting Actress, 1996) and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (Comedy Actress, 2006), give her eight Emmys for performing, tying the record currently held by Cloris Leachman. The show has also won the top prize for Comedy Series three consecutive times (2015-17), which Louis-Dreyfus also won trophies for as a producer. Hale is the only other actor from the show that has won Emmys, taking home Comedy Supporting Actor twice, in 2013 and 2015.
Take a tour of our photo gallery above ranking the 25 greatest episode in advance of the final season this spring. Where does your favorite rank on the list? Some of our choices include “Convention,” “Crate,” “Election Night,” “Helsinki,” “Kissing Your Sister,” “Mother” and “Testimony.”
25. CHICKLET (S. 6, E. 5)
As Selina tries to finalize a location for her library, she opens up to Mike about her life and also finds out that her father is not the man she thought he was. Dan finds himself in a gossip column. Catherine and Marjorie ask Richard to be their sperm donor. Jonah connects with the daughter of a wealthy, Jewish donor. Gary repeatedly attempts to manage a crisis regarding Selina’s wax figure at Madam Tussauds.
Personal favorite moment: Jonah calling Richard saying the most amazing thing happened to him. Richard, having just experienced self-pleasure for the first time, replies, “Really? Something amazing just happened to me too!”
2017 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actor (Matt Walsh), Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
24. SOME NEW BEGINNINGS (S. 3, E. 1)
Selina begins searching for a campaign manager for her unannounced presidential bid while on a book tour stop in Iowa. As Mike gets married to Wendy, news breaks that the Secretary of Defense is resigning. Jonah posts an item on his anonymous website that outs him as the man behind “West Wing Man” and is subsequently fired for forcing POTUS to announce he isn’t seeking re-election.
Personal favorite moment: The glorious scenes of Jonah packing up his things and being escorted out of the White House. “I’m gonna be back as the f***ing president! Jonah Ryan, 2026!” A staffer replies, “That’s a mid-term year, Jonah,” to which he replies, “WELL THEN, I’LL CHANGE IT!”
2014 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series
23. MOMMY MEYER (S. 4, E. 7)
As Selina’s Families First legislation is being dubbed the “Mommy Meyer Bill,” she takes in an evening with friends from her days as a lawyer. An intruder breaks into the White House and a shooting in Pittsburgh causes Tom James (Hugh Laurie) to put his foot in his mouth. Amy and Dan go to work lobbying for the concrete industry. Jonah and Richard accidentally let it slip to Tom about the second data breach.
Personal favorite moment: Seeing Laurie truly come into his own as Tom James was great but it’s hard to top Mike’s realization that in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” he’s not the Emperor. “No, I’m just the clothes.”
2015 Emmy nominations: Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation
22. LIBRARY (S. 6, E. 2)
While Selina is attending the dedication of President Hughes’s library, she begins making plans for her own. Andrew causes some unpleasantness for Selina in regards to her portraitist, Helen. Jonah tries to find a girlfriend. Amy releases an attack ad for Buddy, which causes great discomfort for their relationship.
Personal favorite moment: Jonah insulting his dates is priceless, but nothing tops the one-two punch of Helen’s sexual text message to Andrew playing over the car stereo and then Gary going absolutely ballistic in attacking him.
21. C***GATE (S. 5, E. 6)
With the economy on the verge of collapsing, Selina has to choose which two banks to bailout, which puts a wrench in her relationship with Charlie (John Slattery). An article claims that someone on Selina’s staff called her the c-word and Amy is assigned to find out who, even though it was her that did it in the first place. Jonah repeatedly fails to connect with voters until he starts insulting Selina.
Personal favorite moment: Bill Ericsson (Diedrich Bader), managing the campaign of Jonah’s opponent, says to Dan, “Tell the president no hard feelings. Oh wait, that’s right, I do have hard feelings. I’m consumed by them.”
2016 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actress (Anna Chlumsky), Production Design for a Narrative Program – Half-Hour or Less (along with “The Eagle”)
20. EAST WING (S. 4, E. 2)
As Selina welcomes the Israeli prime minister, Gary is put in charge of organizing the state dinner which ends up going insanely over budget. Selina has a painting removed that has some negative repercussions. Jonah demands a staff to assist him in his duties.
Personal favorite moment: Gary being appalled at a proposed centerpiece, “Oh my God, did we get these from a homeless man’s grave? They’re molesting my eyes!”
2015 Emmy wins: Comedy Series, Comedy Supporting Actor (Tony Hale)
19. JOINT SESSION (S. 4, E. 1)
Selina prepares for her first speech in front of a joint session of Congress and also must find a way to guarantee funding for her Families First initiative. Gary begins to feel like he’s being shut out of Selina’s professional life. Jonah has an awkward encounter with the new vice president’s chief of staff.
Personal favorite moment: Selina lambasting her staff for screwing up the speech put in her teleprompter: “This speech was supposed to perfectly define my presidency. Whole cities of children were gonna be saved from poverty. Instead now, that money is going to fund obsolete, metal, giant dildos!”
2015 Emmy nominations: Production Design for a Narrative Program – Half-Hour or Less (along with “Tehran” and “Convention”)
18. NEV-AD-A (S. 5, E. 2)
Dan and Amy are dispatched out to Nevada to monitor a recount happening in Carson City in the hopes that it will lead to a total statewide recount and thus deliver Selina the presidency. Selina takes charge of the economic task force and finds herself very drawn to a powerful CEO.
Personal favorite moment: When Jonah likens himself to Michael Jordan in discussing why he should be on the recount team, Amy responds: “You are not Michael Jordan. You are a seven-foot-seven goony-looking Lithuanian who’s gonna drop dead of Marfan syndrome.”
17. BLURB (S. 6, E. 7)
When Selina is pressured into putting more about her time as president into her book, she gets the idea of inserting her affair with Tom James into it, causing her to reach out to James. Dan is surprised to find out that focus groups think he has no chemistry with his co-anchor, Brie. Jonah doesn’t get a ticket to Selina’s portrait unveiling and, in retaliation, shuts down the government, causing Selina’s portrait unveiling to be scaled down and without President Montez.
Personal favorite moment: The entire scene of Jonah going to a Judaism religious studies class so that he can convert to the faith. When he is informed that Jews do not believe in heaven, he replies, “How am I gonna see my dog again? Is there, like, a Jew place for dogs?”
2017 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2017 Emmy nominations: Comedy Guest Actor (Hugh Laurie), Comedy Directing
16. CAMP DAVID (S. 5, E. 8)
Selina uses her Christmas retreat at Camp David to secretly conduct negotiations with the Chinese president about sanctions and Tibet. Minna Häkkinen (Sally Phillips) is sent as an intermediary so Selina can keep this from Catherine. Selina is also suspicious of Catherine consulting Andrew for financial advice. Amy, Dan and Richard guide Jonah through the homestretch of the New Hampshire special election.
Personal favorite moment: After Jonah is projected to win the special election, Dan says in amazement, “Oh my God. I did this!” Upon seeing Jonah take the stage and act in typical Jonah fashion, Dan says the exact same line as he looks in horror at what he helped accomplish.
15. D.C. (S. 2, E. 10)
With Selina deciding not to be on the ticket for re-election and run for the top spot in six years, she advises her staff to start looking for other jobs. Confusion ensues when it appears that POTUS will not seek a second term but the subsequent rumors that spread because of it cause him to go back and forth on his decision.
Personal favorite moment: Amy’s boyfriend Ed (Zach Woods) telling her: “You’re the secretary to the vice president – that’s like being Garfunkel’s roadie.”
2013 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series
14. RUNNING (S. 2, E. 9)
While being en route to a brunch with campaign donors, Selina walks through a glass door. Gary gives her St. John’s Wort, not realizing it doesn’t mix well with anti-depressants. As Ben tries to manage the situation, a possible impeachment vote from the House Judiciary Committee causes chaos in the White House. Selina makes a major decision on her future. Amy and Dan toy with the idea of possible working for Danny Chung (Randall Park).
Personal favorite moment: Sue describing the glass door incident to Dan: “That woman has become a living metaphor of her own career.”
2013 Emmy wins: Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Comedy Supporting Actor (Tony Hale)
2013 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series
13. GROUNDBREAKING (S. 6, E. 10)
In the lead up to the groundbreaking for her presidential library, Selina is dogged by rumors of seeking mental health treatment after her election loss. A snag in the building’s location forces the groundbreaking to be postponed. Catherine gives birth and Selina is quick to use the baby as a political prop. Selina also makes a big announcement about her future intentions causing her to breakup with Jaffar.
Personal favorite moment: The recurring gag of the library being shaped like a vagina is priceless.
2017 Emmy wins: Comedy Series, Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
2017 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actress (Anna Chlumsky), Comedy Writing, Comedy Directing, Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
12. CLOVIS (S. 3, E. 4)
Selina and her staff take a tour of the billion dollar tech-giant, Clovis. Dan uses Jonah to spread a rumor that Danny Chung tortured a man to death during his service in Iraq. Selina’s staff attempts to exchange a story placement on Clovis’s home page for tax breaks that would benefit the company.
Personal favorite moment: Amy’s line about babies: “You know, they say all babies are cute, but whoever ‘they’ are, should be stuck in a stroller and pushed into traffic.”
2014 Emmy nominations: Art Direction for a Contemporary Program – Half-Hour or Less (along with “Detroit” and “Special Relationship”)
11. INAUGURATION (S. 5, E. 10)
With Tom James appearing to be headed for the presidency, Selina seeks to become his Secretary of State, but is instead offered to be his vice president. Selina refuses at first but eventually accepts in order to retain power. Vice President Doyle (Phil Reeves) betrays Selina and votes to elect the opposing party’s running mate, Sen. Laura Montez (Andrea Savage) as the next president.
Personal favorite moment: When Richard is talking to a drunk Selina about his family and coming to the realization that the woman he thought was his aunt is actually his mother and the woman he thought was his mother is actually his grandmother.
2016 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2016 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actor (Tony Hale), Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
10. TEARS (S. 1, E. 8)
Selina travels to Ohio to endorse her party’s candidate for governor, Rep. Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl) but he doesn’t want her endorsement and threatens to go after her is she does endorse. Mike and Amy take advantage of Selina’s emotional state and manipulate an interviewer into making her cry which, in turn, boosts her popularity, making Furlong want her endorsement.
Personal favorite moment: Dan’s friend Larry explaining what a corpse-f***ing is: “They take your mortal remains and have as much fun with it as they can because everyone wants to be the guy getting the TV sound-bite.”
2012 Emmy wins: Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
2012 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series
9. MOTHER (S. 5, E. 4)
Selina’s mother suffers a stroke and is on life support. Upon hearing that her approval numbers have gone up out of sympathy Selina decides to capitalize on this and take her mother off life support. As Selina’s mother dies, the staff finds out that the recount in Nevada will continue causing everyone in the hospital room to cheer. The ballots in the recount end up all going for O’Brien and not only will Selina lose the state, but also the national popular vote.
Personal favorite moment: When Selina tries to get the recount canceled after learning that the votes aren’t going her way: “You’re going to cancel this recount like Anne Frank’s bat mitzvah.”
2016 Emmy wins: Comedy Series, Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
2016 Emmy nominations: Comedy Writing, Comedy Directing, Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
8. SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP (S. 3, E. 7)
Selina is on a trip to London to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI. Her fitness trainer, Ray (Christopher Meloni), comes with and starts exerting his influence on Selina. Dan, in his role as campaign manager, organizes a trip to a London pub for Selina in an attempt to appeal to blue-collar voters but it backfires spectacularly. Jonah uncovers controversial blog posts from Ray’s past. Dan collapses from a panic attack and is subsequently fired.
Personal favorite moment: Selina wearing the insane hat that Ray suggested for her.
2014 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series, Comedy Writing, Art Direction for a Contemporary Program – Half-Hour or Less (along with “Clovis” and “Detroit”)
7. TESTIMONY (S. 4, E. 9)
Through a compilation of press conferences, congressional testimonies and depositions with Selina and her staff, investigators try to get to the bottom of the data breach that occurred in connection with the Families First Bill. Eventually, all the blame gets placed on Bill Ericsson.
Personal favorite moment: The nicknames Selina’s staff has for Jonah being read aloud in committee: J-Rock, Jizzy Gillespie, Jack and the Giant Jackoff, Gaylien, Tinkerballs, Wadzilla, The Pointless Giant, The 60-Foot-Virgin, Gimpanzee, Jonah Ono, Hagrid’s Nutsack, Scrotum Pole, 12 Years a Slave to Jerking Off, Benedict Come in His Own Hand, Guyscraper, The Cloud Botherer, SupercalifragilisticexpialiDickCheese, Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole and Spewbacca.
2015 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2015 Emmy nominations: Comedy Directing
6. CONGRESSIONAL BALL (S. 5, E. 7)
Selina uses the annual White House Holiday Party to court votes in the House of Representatives ahead of the scheduled vote to determine the winner of the presidential election. Selina also confronts Tom James about trying to orchestrate his own ascendance to the presidency. Gary gets a big head after being named one of the 50 hottest staffers in D.C. Jonah tanks during debate prep and Richard fails to help get Jonah out of several sticky situations.
Personal favorite moment: The look on Gary’s face when he walks in on Selina and Tom having sex in the Oval Office and then quickly walks out without being noticed.
2016 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2016 Emmy nominations: Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour) and Animation
5. HELSINKI (S. 2, E. 5)
Selina and her staff travel to Finland for an official visit with the country’s prime minister, Minna Häkkinen. Mike begins working for Kent’s Dream Metrics team. The staff finds out that one of the hostages that Selina helped in negotiating the release of from Uzbekistan was actually a spy. Selina finds herself being groped by Minna’s husband.
Personal favorite moment (tie): Gary being told that the term he’s been using to describe his job, “kassi,” doesn’t mean “bag man,” but instead is a slang term, “man bag,” which means “testicle container.” Also Senator Doyle reacting to the news of the spy, “This isn’t just a crisis…this is at least ten years of Oliver Stone movies!”
2013 Emmy nominations: Comedy Series
4. CRATE (S. 3, E. 9)
After losing the Iowa Caucuses, Selina starts giving speeches on a crate in order to address the public in a folksier manner. A reporter accidentally leaves his phone recording after an interview with Selina and catches her and her staff talking trash about donors, which leads to a scathing story. Jonah tries to use his family connections to get a job with the Chung campaign. Kent informs Selina that due to the First Lady’s suicide attempt, POTUS will be resigning and Selina will become president.
Personal favorite moment: Gary finding out from Selina that she’s about to assume the presidency and getting a nosebleed while being elated and celebrating at the same time.
2014 Emmy wins: Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
2014 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actor (Tony Hale), Comedy Guest Actor (Gary Cole)
3. CONVENTION (S. 4, E. 5)
Selina is preparing to accept the party’s nomination when Vice President Doyle tells her that he won’t be on the ticket for the upcoming election, forcing Meyer’s team and newly appointed advisor, Karen Collins, to scramble to find a replacement. After Chung turns them down, Amy suggests Sen. Tom James, which Selina immediately dismisses. Selina’s refusal to listen and Karen’s constant indecisiveness cause Amy to lose her cool and quit. James is offered the VP spot and accepts.
Personal favorite moment: Amy’s meltdown is one of the greatest moments on this show. “You are the worst thing that has happened to this country since food in buckets and maybe slavery!” Then there’s the amazing closer: “You have achieved nothing apart from one thing. The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents because we tried one and she f***ing sucked.”
2015 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2015 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actress (Anna Chlumsky), Production Design for a Narrative Program – Half-Hour or Less (with “Joint Session” and “Tehran”)
2. KISSING YOUR SISTER (S. 5, E. 9)
The episode is presented as Catherine’s finished documentary which chronicles the Meyer team watching the House of Representatives vote for the next president interspersed with moments from the past several months on the campaign along with seeing her relationship with Marjorie develop.
Personal favorite moment: Jonah campaigning at an elementary school and offering an insanely inappropriate answer when he’s asked how he’s doing. His uncle, Jeff Kane (Peter MacNicol), rushes in, yelling, “Hey! This is an elementary school! Shut your spewing mouth, you animal!”
2016 Emmy wins: Comedy Series
2016 Emmy nominations: Comedy Supporting Actor (Matt Walsh), Comedy Directing
1. ELECTION NIGHT (S. 4, E. 10)
Selina and her team watch as the election results come in. An evening full of ups and downs ensues, culminating in a tie in the Electoral College.
Personal favorite moment: Tom James asking what happens when there’s a tie in the Electoral College and Ben replying, “Everybody goes online to try to find out what happens when we get a tie.”
2015 Emmy wins: Comedy Lead Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Comedy Writing