David Cross has filled out a little bit since playing Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development, but the bulk suits him well as Todd Margaret, a loser perpetually covered in a sheen of flop sweat who sports a nervous smile. There’s something Costanza-esque about Todd: just as you get close to pitying and rooting for the guy, he weaves a web of lies so pointless and idiotic, or starts thinking so highly of himself, that you realize he pretty much deserves everything he gets.
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret follows the titular Todd as he travels to London to sell a (probably toxic) energy drink called Thunder Muscle, after his boss, Will Arnett, mistakes Margaret for a ball-buster when he hears him trying to bulk up his self-esteem by repeating what he hears on a motivational CD called “Don’t Be Such a Pussy!” Arnett once again plays an arrogant son-of-a-bitch who only thinks with his penis and his wallet. While I’ll always love the pathetic vulnerability of AD’s Gob, Arnett’s Brent also possesses a certain obliviousness, only this time mixed in with an overabundance of testosterone and foul language.
After Todd leaves his kitty with two months’ worth of tuna and says goodbye to his “girlfriend” (a girl who slept with him once while she was drunk and is trying to hurry him out before her date arrives), he arrives in London where he meets his lone employee, Blake Harrison's Dave. Harrison could be the snotty younger brother of Tim from The Office, vengeful mischief hidden behind an innocent face and sweet smile. Instead of actually calling Todd out on his lies, Dave draws them out of him: Todd claims to have been raised in Leeds after spotting the album The Who: Live at Leeds and Dave probes him by asking exactly where he was raised in Leeds. After he points out that there is no 2150 Church Street, he pretends to go along with it when Todd claims he lived at 21 and 50 Church Street.
Once he lands in London with the insurmountable task of selling an energy drink to a country that doesn’t want it, Todd meets Alice, an aspiring gastromolecular chef who owns a cafe. She takes pity on Todd (but not too much.) After he tries and fails to sell Thunder Muscle to some pub-goers, she allows him to try to sell the drink to her customers. Dave goads him into drinking several cans’ worth and Todd goes apeshit, yelling “I have the strength of 20 ponies. Twenty!” before hitting his head and falling on the ground. Alice buys exactly one can of Thunder Muscle from him and he sighs, “You’re a nice lady.” He then returns to his flophouse and falls asleep on the floor, a pee stain blooming elegantly across the front of his pants.
With Cross and Arnett in the cast it’d be tempting to compare TIPDOTM to Arrested Development but it’s a distinctly British show that just happens to be half-American (the pilot originally aired on Britain’s Channel 4 and was re-shot using Blake Harrison in the place of Russell Tovey as Dave). The show opens with Todd being charged with various heinous crimes (founding a terrorist organization, possessing biological weapons, intent to distribute child pornography) and then places us 14 days prior to that. With only a six-episode run, the show moves at a fast pace and, like Extras (the show was co-written by Shaun Pye) is merciless to its characters: in the second episode, even a baby is briefly left to fend for itself.
The show is highly quotable and the setup is simple yet zippy. With Louie on hiatus for the season and Saturday Night Live already in the hole, I think comedy fans will enjoy the addition of TIPDOTM to the weekly lineup.
--Three stars worth noting in the pilot: Spike Jonze as Arnett’s helpless employee, Amber Tamblyn as Todd Margaret’s erstwhile girlfriend, and Johnny Marr behind the show’s theme song and incidental music.
--There’s a hint of Mrs. Featherbottom in Todd’s attempt to sell Thundermuscle to the cafe customers.
-- “Barack Obama is President, you racist!”