Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

US/UK sitcom The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret returned to American screens this year for a surprise second series. It stars Arrested Development and Running Wilde veterans Will Arnett and David Cross as a couple of American salesmen that are somewhat out of their depth. After lying their way into their high-powered positions the pair spent the first series (which ran for six episodes in 2010) lurching from one crisis to another with disastrous consequences for co-writer Cross, who plays the eponymous Margaret.

The show also stars Sharon Horgan, of the excellent Pulling, and Blake Harrison, of The Inbetweeners. Shaun Pye, co-creator of Monkey Dust, co-writes with Cross for this darkest of dark sit-coms. Each episode begins with a scene of Margaret appearing in dire circumstances—in the first series he’s a defendant in court, with various charges against him being read. The main events of the pilot take place two weeks before the trial and each episode typically advances the back story by one day. The second season begins where the first season left off, one week before the courtroom scene.

I found the first series to be one of the greatest TV letdowns I’ve ever experienced. The end result doesn’t come within a country mile of the sum of it’s parts, much like Running Wilde (which also starred Arnett and Cross). Harrison plays the most obnoxious of characters and you really get the sense that he’s allowed some of his own personal traits to permeate the character he plays. The whole thing is well beyond the realms of feasibility, which is normally fine, but this carries the wrong sort of feel. It plays like a normal sitcom but you can’t possibly empathise or relate to any one in it.

It’s not entirely without merit though, if you can see past the glaring faults, there are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, mostly thanks to Cross and Arnett’s comic timing and sensibilities. The second series follows the exact same pattern as the first, so if you enjoyed that you’ll certainly enjoy this too, if you don’t bore of the increasingly ludicrous situations that the hapless Margaret finds himself in. Likewise, if you didn’t like this first time round, you’ll fucking hate it on the second go round. Interestingly though, Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm appears as a fictional version of himself, having been bought out of his Mad Men contract. I’m reliably informed that a third series was requested but that Pye and Cross declined, thank heavens for small mercies. As much as it sounds like I hate this show, I don’t I’ll be watching, when it finally airs in the UK.

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