Election in Limbo Compared to Classic — and Now Prescient — 'Veep' Storyline

Veep Julia HBO still - H
Lacey Terrell/HBO

Julia Louis-Dreyfus with Tony Hale in the 'Veep' episode "Mother."

With the presidential election mired in pro-Trump "count the votes" and "stop the count" protest drama, and potentially hinging on "Nev-AD-a," viewers of the HBO political comedy were quick to note the eerie similarities.

In the weeks and months leading up to the election, Veep has become more relevant. Showrunner David Mandel noted the trend in a recent chat with The Hollywood Reporter.

"During the two years as things got worse, it’s like someone said, 'You should watch Veep!' And people did," Mandel told THR when chatting ahead of the 2020 election about assembling Veep and Seinfeld reunion fundraisers for the Democratic Parties in the battleground states of Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas. "I did wonder about the appetite — we haven’t been off the air that long. But I think both because of the funny spotlight that’s been on Veep since we’ve been off the air and the sense that they are running this strange Veep incompetence playbook at the Trump White House, people seem more into the show now than when we were making it."

Veep is no stranger to predicting moments of real-life political absurdity, and then being invoked on social media as they play out. Despite going off the air in mid-2019, the shenanigans from the Emmy-winning HBO political comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus have become even more viral in the Trump era.

Case in point: Veep was trending on Twitter on Wednesday night.

With the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden still up in the air, and potentially hinging on the state of Nevada, many Veep viewers were quick to note the darkly comedic similarities between the fate of democracy and a classic plotline involving Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer, who had a reputation for being the ultimate narcissist and worst president in the show's version of the United States.

The fifth season of Veep revolved around Selina Meyer's failed reelection bid, and a double-episode arc explored the future of her presidential legacy hinging on the electoral votes from the state of Nevada. The episodes, titled "Nev-AD-a" and "Mother," were the second and third episodes of the season and aired in May 2016. They followed Meyer and her incompetent staff as they flip-flopped on seeking a recount in Nevada, only to ultimately lose both the Nevada recount and the popular vote. (The first episode is a nod to the oft-mispronounced state: "It is Nevada, with an 'a,' not an 'uh.' It is a real issue, I know from a lot of our political friends that that’s a real thing. It’s like, 'Make sure you call it Nev-AD-da,'" Mandel told THR at the time.)

On Wednesday night, after President Trump's campaign filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia — to stop the vote count in the former two — and began to seek a recount in Wisconsin, the race began to narrow in the key battleground states that remained to be called, with many news pundits turning their collective eye toward Nevada as possibly determining the ultimate winner of the presidential election.

That's when Mandel, as well as writers and cast members from Veep, began to notice the wave of social media comparisons begin.

Since polls closed, a "Count the Vote" movement has become a rallying cry from Hollywood figures and Democratic supporters, urging every ballot to be counted and for the American public to have patience while that happens. Hollywood stars continued to push that messaging and encourage election officials to count every vote as reports of clashing protests came out of Arizona, Michigan, New York and other places on Wednesday.

Louis-Dreyfus herself entered the viral social media conversation as viewers began to recirculate a memorable clip from the "Mother" episode, in which Meyer, mourning the death of her mother, backtracked on seeking a recount. Her team had gone so far as to hire protestors to further their "count every vote" push, but as the trickling-in military absentee ballots begin to swing the state not in her favor, she screamed at her inner circle to "cancel this recount like Anne Frank's bat mitzvah."

With the results remaining in limbo Wednesday night, pro-Trump protesters chanted "stop the count" outside a hall where votes were being counted in Detroit, while other pro-Trump demonstrators pushed to count the vote in Arizona (which had already been called for Biden). At the time, Biden was also ahead in Michigan, and the Associated Press called the state for the Democratic nominee Wednesday.

The conflicting messaging from the current president and his supporters was once again compared to the flip-flop messaging that was carried out by Meyer and her staff on Veep.

Other viewers went back further to the premiere episode of season five, titled "Morning After" — which was when Mandel took over as showrunner after creator Armando Iannucci's exit — and shared Meyer's national address after the season four finale ended with the election in limbo. Meyer's reelection bid came down to a 269-269 electoral college tie — something that remains an unlikely but possible outcome in the Trump-Biden election.

"As it turns out, there is a virtually unprecedented tie in the electoral college, a somewhat arcane institution that many scholars believe we should do away with," says presidential incumbent Meyer in her address.

As of Thursday morning, hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots remained to be counted in a historic election because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. As the key races in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia continued to narrow, the electoral count was 264 to 214, with Biden in the lead and just six votes shy of the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency. The afternoon prior, Biden had already broken the record for the most votes cast for any presidential candidate in history.

As for the real-life election drama mirroring what has turned out to be an eerily prescient season of television, Mandel had this to say about Veep continuing to take over Twitter (well into Thursday morning): "I’m not sure #Veep trended when we were actually on the air … not really worth it."