TV Eye: Rich Rewards

David Cross is wickedly funny in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

David Cross stars in <i>The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret</i>.
David Cross stars in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.

I don't think I've ever met a man who can make me scream like David Cross. It's not his stand-up that kills me, although his 30-city tour, in tandem with the release of his first book, I Drink for a Reason, was a big hit. It's his work on the small screen that has earned my affection. Prior to several well-received comedy stand-up specials, Cross made his TV debut on The Ben Stiller Show, later moving on to the influential HBO series Mr. Show, where he was both co-creator and co-star. And who could forget his sexually repressed Dr. Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development? Just thinking about him showering in his teeny-tiny denim cutoffs makes me guffaw. Cross currently has a small role in the recently launched Running Wilde (Fox), from Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz and starring AD alum Will Arnett. Hurwitz's new series, about a lazy rich guy trying to win the affections of his do-gooding first love (Keri Russell), doesn't quite hit the mark, but Cross nails it in his upcoming, hilarious The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. No, it's not part of the slate of new offerings on broadcast TV. You'll have to look for this little gem on cable, on the Independent Film Channel.

"Always on. Slightly off" is the new tagline for IFC, which is slowly churning out more original series, and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is a perfect addition to an IFC lineup that skews just this side of sanity. Cross stars as Todd Margaret, a bottom-feeding temp worker who lands a high-powered sales job promoting an energy drink in London. No matter that he's not really a salesman and has no experience in the foreign market he's charged with conquering. Or even that the energy drink is of questionable quality. Todd's one true talent is his ability to survive. He does this by issuing small falsehoods. Individually, they're harmless. But this is where the poor decision-making comes in. The poor sap can't stop himself from stringing together the tiny falsehoods until they become big, honking lies. Instead of dialing back when he has a chance (or intervening – he lies by omission as well), he burrows deeper into the lie until he's writhing on a noose of his own making. It's all so sick, so twisted, and so very, very funny.

Besides his obvious comic timing, Cross is also a master of physical humor. In the pilot episode, Todd tries to sell the beverage to a captive audience in a small cafe. He chugs several cans of the (presumably) heavily caffeinated beverage and is whipped into a high-octane frenzy that leaves the cafe in shambles, the patrons terrified, and Todd face-down in a plate of pasta. Todd is bad enough on his own. Add Dave (Blake Harrison, from British sitcom The Inbetweeners) to the mix, and it's like throwing water on a grease fire. Dave is Todd's one and only employee. Once Dave figures out what he's dealing with, he takes pleasure in exploiting Todd's unfortunate flaw.

Todd Margaret has few friends, and the ones he does have are more like angels of mercy. Chief among them is the lovely Alice (Pulling's Sharon Horgan), the owner of the cafe Todd destroys. She's not quite sure what to make of this quirky American and waffles between being charmed and horrified by him. Arnett guest stars as Todd's foul-mouthed boss, as does Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) as Todd's "girlfriend," a label she earns after one liquor-induced decision to sleep with him. Other guest stars include Janeane Garofalo and Russ Tamblyn.

If you're wondering where all the good comedy is this fall TV season, it's distilled into one six-episode series that will leave you heaving with laughter.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret premieres Friday, Oct. 1, at 9pm on IFC. The pilot episode is currently available to view at www.ifc.com.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at tveye@austinchronicle.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

David Cross, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Running Wilde, Mitchell Hurwitz, Will Arnett, Keri Russell, Amber Tamblyn, Sharon Horgan, Blake Harrison

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