As a huge fan of David Cross and Will Arnett, there really wasn't much option in me checking out "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" when it aired on the IFC network. Why not? They are two of my favorite comic actors (Cross shares a writing credit here). These six episodes can be loud, chaotic, and hysterical. I suspect that many people will love the crazy antics and just as many will be put off by the slapstick shenanigans. In short, this is not necessarily a show that will appeal to all--but those that really embrace it will think that it is terrific. For my taste, the program is not wholly successful but it boasts a tremendously entertaining premise and fully committed performances. Largely opting for buffoonery as opposed to cleverness, the show walks a fine line in its madcap mania. There are times I wished it would have pulled back slightly to make the character foibles (which are gruesomely awkward) more relatable, but mostly I went with this world where every action is performed in hyper-drive and every failure magnified as if on stage.
Cross plays the titular Todd Margaret, a compulsive liar with uncommonly good luck and terribly bad judgement. Margaret is promoted from his position as an American office drone to take over as a sales executive in London promoting a dubious new energy drink called Thunder Muscle. Set as a series of comic misadventures, the program follows Margaret as his inexperience, bluster, and untruthfulness take situations that start badly and make them progressively worse. It is painfully awkward and unpleasant as you see that every move Margaret makes further entrenches him even deeper into a waking nightmare. That said, there is quite a bit of pleasure to be derived from his downfall. Arnett, the series' MVP to my mind, plays Margaret's unscrupulous supervisor who manipulates his protege without mercy. Blake Harrison (so great on the In-Betweeners) plays Margaret's London assistant who is more likely to sabotage his new boss than to offer real help. And Sharon Horgan is on hand as a potential one-sided love interest--she sympathizes with Margaret's plight, but isn't looking for romance.
The portion of "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" that deals with the marketing and distribution of Thunder Muscle is easily my favorite part of the show. It is a master class in inept business practices and serves up some solid satire. Other components, such as the aforementioned love interest, are a bit more uneven. I like Horgan, but didn't always think this side plot added to the comic momentum of the program. Arnett (and just about any scene of corporate politics) had savage bite, although he isn't around nearly enough. There are some amusing cameos in smaller roles such as Spike Jonze, Amber Tamblyn, Russ Tamblyn, and Janeane Garofalo. But largely, this is all about David Cross and whether or not you enjoy the program will rely on your willingness to be Todd Margaret's partner in crime. The show is unrelentingly ruthless and none of the characters will elicit your sympathy, so don't expect traditional sitcom fare. I didn't always love "Todd Margaret" but I enjoyed the ride. It ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger as well with another season premiering on IFC in January of 2012. KGHarris, 10/11.