REVIEW PROJECT :: The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret
So I should say up front and out loud that this isn't a show for me, and I probably shouldn't have watched it. Although I'm a fan of David Cross, Mr. Show, etc., I'm not generally into that kind of cynical, negative comedy. I'm not against it; it's just not for me. Discomfort as an animating principle can work, but I think it needs a valve of some kind; maybe a sympathetic character, or something the audience can latch onto. It doesn't even have to be a character--it could be a theme, or an overarching system of choices that elevates the whole piece into the blurrier world of "art."
But The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret lacks all of these things, or at least the first two episodes of Season 1 lack those things. It's all cynical; it's shabby people exploiting other shabby people, with no real stakes, no need to worry about the welfare of any character.. nothing. Why care if a situation is uncomfortable if you don't care about any of the people in that situation? It's satisfying at first-- "oh yeah, now this dummy is going to get what's coming to him." But as it's repeated again and again, there's no longer any drama. It's just beating up on that dummy.
I'm fairly unsophisticated in preferring sympathetic characters, although I've been getting better at it. Dan Clowes said in an interview last year, talking about his book Wilson: "Who says you have to like the characters in a story?" [heavily paraphrased; I can't find the original quote] But in the case of Todd Margaret, I think you need someone to side with, for any of the discomfort and awkwardness to have any real punch. There's a woman who owns a restaurant who seems like she should fill that role, but it's such a "smart beautiful longsuffering small business owner just trying to achieve her dream" stereotype that she's utterly uninteresting.
But the real crime is the guy who plays Todd Margaret's employee, who for me undoes the whole show. The actor, Blake Harrison, plays it so straight and unbelievably that it destroys any chance of believing in the show. He's flabbergastingly bad, and it's a loud obnoxious kind of badness, considering that David Cross, who's in nearly every scene with him, is so good. I can't figure out why he was cast in the show to be honest--he's as interesting to watch as someone posting punk'd videos on Youtube. Just terrible.
Anyway. Again, this isn't for me, to be fair. For someone into this kind of thing, it might be more interesting, but for me, it was unpleasant and mildly confusing.