Monday, February 22, 2010

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

When David Cross was introduced at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York for a special live podcast recording of Comedy Death Ray last month, this is what the audience saw...

Yes. A hairy dude in a Nefertiti sweat dress. I was there. It was amazing. Cross's time with CDR host Scott Aukerman was short. He was getting ready to fly to London to do some work on a program he's been writing and starring for the UK's Channel Four called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.

New York Magazine has posted the premiere episode with Will Arnett in a funny bit of Arnett-ness. (All installments of the 25 minute episode is on their site)

NY Mag appears less than thrilled with the comedy. Can't say that I disagree. Call me jadded, burnt out, bitchy...but there is a bit of the old Ugly Americanism in this show, where U.S. capitalism and our brand of corporate greed is thrust onto those punchy, hip Brits. Cross is one of the writers, and American, so it's hard to say if this is just him dealing with an underdog caught up in the machinations of a corporation, or just a dig on inflated American consumerism.

There are improbable situations that lean on the broad side, such as a scene where the jet lagged Todd Margaret absent mindlessly leaves his travel trunk on the sidewalk, and it is (albeit realistically) deemed suspect by the police. What's frustrating is that it's immediately blown up as Todd unsuccessfully tries to explain the truth while being ignored and over-talked to by a bomb squad specialist. Perhaps this humor is geared more British humor than American, or maybe ironic comedy has made me a stickler for funny to come from realistic, organic situations. Still, this scene felt tiresome. And I say this fully aware that my idols, Monty Python, have always done this. But they laid the ground work from which all good comedy should build on. They didn't form a boilerplate for others to just copy.

Nevertheless, Cross has made his hero sympathetic. The British - not so much. Here, they are portrayed as snarky, unmotivated bullies who do not suffer American fools gladly. There is one kind English ally in the mythical cycle of archetype (Ok, so I'm re-reading 'The Writer's Journey'), and that's in the form of a waitress who quickly and contritely befriends him.

All bitching aside, it's worth giving the show a chance. But so far, it's not as stellar a project that I have come to expect from the often hilarious Cross.

No comments: