TV Review: The Regime

HBO’s The Regime has a lot of talent behind it but struggles not to be an inferior Veep

“We stand at the dawn of a new era”

Fun facy – some scenes of The Regime were filmed outside my flat last year. Sadly, that’s about as entertaining as it got for me with this much-heralded HBO miniseries that aired back in March. Created by Will Tracy with Stephen Frears on co- directing duties and Kate Winslet leading a starry ensemble, it has bags of potential but the execution never feels quite there, mainly due to writing that can’t sustain the satirical tone for which it is aiming.

Winslet plays Elena Vernham, the Chancellor of an unnamed vaguely Central European country and head of its authoritarian regime. That regime has seen better days though, its power not what it was and so Vernham rarely leaves her palace, devolving into wide-ranging paranoia and constant political mis-steps. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Herbert Zubak, a violent soldier who morphs into her Rasputin, seizing his chance to become her closest advisor even as it’s not abundantly clear how trustworthy he is.

Its six episodes cover the space of a year in which a lot happens but in which little really registers. There’s an unfortunate proximity to the shenanigans of Selina Meyer in Veep but whereas the satire there so often hit the mark whilst being laugh-out-loud funny, The Regime raises a chuckle at best despite Winslet giving it her utmost. Scenes like the insulting of a group of children in a live interview just don’t connect in the way that they should and I’m not sure I know why it didn’t work for me.

As an HBO show, it has attracted a strong cast. Andrea Riseborough again tries her best as long-suffering right-hand-woman Agnes, Vernham’s government includes the likes of Danny Webb, Henry Goodman and David Bamber, and Martha Plimpton, Hugh Grant and Julia Davis come out to play for as well in some memorable scenes. But with repeated visits to her father’s corpse, invasions of a Ukraine-like neighbour, her hypochondria, her treatment of her epileptic son, the plotting swings wildly from absurd to weird and you’re soon hoping for the rebels to depose this Regime sooner rather than later.

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