SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, on IFC

Hey gang !

I'm creating this thread because these last few weeks, I've been watching a show no one else seems to have been talking about on SpoilerTV, and since I like it I thought I'd talk about it now. But before I get to TIPDoTM, I'll briefly mention the channel this show was on (yep, "was", the show started on Oct 1, 2010 and officially ended on Feb 10, 2012) : IFC, which stands for Independent Film Channel, is an US cable channel owned by the AMC Networks company.

IFC mostly airs indie movies, but they also specialize in re-broadcasting comedy series such as :

Arrested Development (FOX, 53 episodes over 3 seasons (2003-2006)).
Malcolm in the Middle (FOX, 151 episodes over 7 seasons (2000-2006)).
The Larry Sanders Show (HBO, 89 episodes over 6 seasons (1992-1998)).
Mr. Show (HBO, 30 episodes over 4 seasons (1995-1998)).

Freaks and Geeks (NBC, 18 episodes over a single season (1999-2000)).
Undeclared (FOX, 17 episodes over a single season (2001-2002)).
The Ben Stiller Show (FOX, 13 episodes over a single season (1992)).
Action (FOX, 13 episodes over a single season (1999)).

Wilfred (SBS One (Australia), 16 episodes over 2 seasons (2007-2010)).
Flying Circus (BBC1 (Britain), 45 episodes over 4 seasons (1969-1974)).
The IT Crowd (Channel 4 (Britain), 24 episodes over 4 seasons (2006-2010)).

More recently, they started developing their own scripted comedies airing on Friday nights, such as :

Minor Accomplishments (2006-2007) : 2 seasons (16 episodes).
The Whitest Kids U' Know (2007-2011) : 5 seasons (60 episodes).
Z Rock (2008-2009) : 2 seasons (20 episodes).
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (2010-2012) : 2 seasons (12 episodes).
The Onion News Network (2011 - ?) : 2 seasons (20 episodes).
Portlandia (2011 - ?) : 2 seasons (16 episodes).

There are commercial breaks on IFC, the episodes of both The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and The Onion News Network last 22-23 minutes. However, on TIPDoTD, they get to say "fuck" many times (I reckon they've said it more than once per episode, courtesy of Will Arnett's mouthy character, mostly (but there's a secret about that)).

Except Minor Accomplishments, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and The Onion News Network, all these IFC original comedies are sketch shows. And since except SNL, I'm not one for sketch shows (Portlandia stars Fred Armisen, actually, but I don't feel like I'm the right audience for that kind of program), I have no opinion on them, and I haven't seen (nor will I ever see) Minor Accomplishments (not really fond of the leads or the premise).

However, I have seen seasons 1 and 2 of both The ONN and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, and I've enjoyed the both of them quite a lot.

The Onion News Network (through their hit show Fact Zone with Brooke Alvarez) is a parody of a news show, but it's very much scripted, and quite well if you ask me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons, and you do notice recurring elements popping up, along with really fun ideas. It's not always laugh-out-loud, but it's very often well thought-out (e.g : Facebook is run by the CIA ; an american drone killed hundreds of innocent middle-eastern civilians but the drone acted alone ; 2075 time-travelling soldiers came back to 2011 to kill an upcoming ruthless dictator, Suri Cruise ; Al-Quaida took control of the Internet by releasing a cute picture of a piglet wearing boots (which everybody immediately shared with every person they know, paralyzing the web)).

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is, well, the reason I'm writing this message, so I'll try to be thorough. Here's information about that weird comedy in the shape of a mini Arrested Development reunion :

Directors : Alex Hardcastle (Kröd Mändoon) directed season 1 and Ben Gregor (No Heroics) directed season 2.

Writers : Shawn Pye (Friday Night with Jonathan Ross) and David Cross wrote all 12 episodes. Mark Chappell (My Life in Film) contributed to the teleplay of season 2.

Synopsis : In a nutshell, Todd Margaret (David Cross) is an employee of a Portland company. He's transferred to London to sell a new brand of energy drink, Thunder Muscle. When he arrives there, he finds no one except one person, Dave (Blake Harrison), working for him. He has tons of Thunder Muscle to sell to please his newly appointed boss in charge of the operation, Brent Wilts (Will Arnett). Todd is second to none when it comes to make his way through lies, which leads him to all kinds of trouble, getting bigger and bigger every time. In the pilot, he starts by saying to Dave that he comes from Leeds. He also tells Alice (Sharon Horgan), a woman he has a crush on, that his father is dead. But that's just for starters, he gets into deeper and deeper layers of lies as the show goes on.

Cast :

David Cross (Arrested Development, Running Wilde) as Todd Margaret.
Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Running Wilde, 30 Rock) as Brent Wilts.
Sharon Horgan (Free Agents, Pulling) as Alice Bell, owner of a small restaurant.
Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners) as Dave, Todd's sole employee.

Featuring :

Spike Jonze (Oscar-nominated director of Being John Malkovitch and director of the Oscar-winning film Adaptation) as Doug Whitney, Todd's original boss back in Portland.
Sara Pascoe (Free Agents, Campus) as Pam, Todd's drunk, smoking, pregnant neighbor.
Russ Tamblyn (Twin Peaks) as Chuck Margaret, Todd's father.
Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia, The Unusuals) as some girl.
Jon Hamm (Mad Men, 30 Rock) as Jon Hamm.

I'm the first person to say I was very skeptical and not convinced right away by this show. I had a very mixed impression after finishing season 1 (lots of funny moments but also a lot of not-so-funny ones, and the show sometimes didn't seem very smooth in its escalation of troubles for Todd). Season 2, on the other hand, gives a whole new dimension to the show by revealing a plot twist (which I won't give away here) that certainly was planned all along (David Cross had planned to make this show a two-season series from the beginning, even if last fall IFC wanted to do a third season).

I decided to create that thread because of the extremely satisfying series finale. The show may not be the most amazing comedy of all time, but the finale is near perfect. While it ties everything up, when all is said and done, there are a few plot holes. David Cross is aware of that and he is the first person to address that in a funny scene at the very end. He's so forgiven, because if you're not thinking too hard about the coherence of the masterplan behind the very purpose of the series, it's nothing big, and having a comedy series with an ambition like that is enjoyable enough to get past minor inconsistencies and/or coincidences along the way.

If like me you're a huge fan of Arrested Development (it's a pretty sweet Gobias (some coffee) reunion there), or if you just like weird/dark humor à la Party Down or Ricky Gervais, give this series a try (and if you do, please don't give up until you get to the second act (season 2), giving the show a whole new dimension).

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