For once, I feel a little bit like a real TV critic. I’m reviewing a show before it’s premier on American TV. The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margret aired on the BBC last year, but starts on IFC October 1st. The Onion’s AV Club has been promoting it. I was looking around on the free offerings on Amazon Video on Demand where you can now watch it for free.
TIPDoTM is David Cross’ baby, he wrote and created it for the BBC. It’s a great showcase for Cross, even if the sitcom itself is a pretty straightforward affair. It’s not the surreal comedy of Mr. Show or even Arrested Development.
Cross plays Todd Margret, an office temp suddenly thrown in way over his head. This six episode sitcom falls into what I call “The Really Bad Day” dark comedy genre. The film After Hours is a great example of this. In “The Really Bad Day” genre, no matter what the protagonist tries, his situation only gets worse. Many sitcoms, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, use this ploy for a single episode to great effect as every mistake Larry makes is magnified back at him ten-fold. It appears TIPDoTM will be an ongoing Bad Day, making the show more like a six-part serial story over fourteen bad days.
Todd Margret’s singular self-destroying flaw is not that he lies, but that he won’t back down from the lie. A simple ‘My bad’ could completely change his bad fortune. He’s like an improv ‘Yes-Anding’ his way to his own grave. He’s a weak man desperately trying to bluff his way into proving to the world he’s a strong man. Cross excels at these characters.
The story starts as Cross blowhard boss (played by Will Arnett, playing an even more swear-filled version of the arrogant blowhard buffoon he’s played since Job on Arrested Development) overhearing Cross practicing an aggressive personality tape and immediately hires him to sell an energy drink called Thunder Muscle in England. Cross never says no, lies to say yes and never backs down from a lie. That’s the premise. Helping him in Britain is an sweet coffee shop owner who enables his lies and Dave, his underling who encourages and baits him to lie. Margret has no impulse control and can’t stop himself.
As they say, hilarity ensues. I admit I expected a more ground breaking show from Cross than TIPDoTM, but that said, Cross does deliver from an acting standpoint. His character isn’t sympathetic and in other shows would be a one-off plot mover, but Cross does a good job of making us see the world from his side and root for his pathos. It’s a nice, tightly focused show and six episodes seem like it’ll be the right length.
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One problem with ‘really bad day’ shows or movies, is that they can sometimes become uncomfortable to watch, depending on how realistic the show is, and how much you can empathize with the characters.
Some of the ‘really bad day’ episodes on Curb (or even Seinfeld before it) made me cringe and turn away. And Weeds seems to be more and more really, really, bad days, but so far, I’m still ok watching it.
TIPDoTM seems to be very watchable. Soooo over-the-top, that I won’t ever confuse Todd Margaret (not Todd AND Margaret, which my mis-reading had me looking for the female lead) for a real person.