Despite the promising talent and amusing title, the poorest decision pertaining to “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” was the one to greenlight it. David Cross created, wrote and stars in this comedy about a dense American turned loose in London, who tries to lie and spin his way out of every pickle into which he stumbles. Yet it’s a very one-note joke, adding a second creative disappointment (the other being Fox’s “Running Wilde”) to this fall’s Cross-Will Arnett team-ups, while representing one of the more ill-considered U.K.-U.S. collaborations since Bush met Blair.
Originally produced for Channel 4 in the U.K., the show is thus allowed to to follow the British template — telling an ongoing comedic story over six half-hour installments. Unfortunately, that format represents “Todd Margaret’s” most interesting element, and as we learned on IFC’s last foray into that territory, Chris Kattan’s awful “Bollywood Hero,” having the right idea means nothing without executing it properly.
A midlevel drone, Cross’ title character inadvertently fools his pompous boss (Arnett) into sending him to London to oversee the launch of an energy drink, Thunder Muscle, whose very name evokes either titters or aghast stares from the locals. Todd nevertheless plunges onward, with scant help from a hostile assistant (Blake Harrison of “The Inbetweeners”) and the pretty cafe owner (Sharon Horgan) who catches Todd’s eye.
Told in flashback that implies things have gone terribly, terribly wrong, the ensuing gags are either lame or (for a U.S. audience, anyway)or culturally confusing — frequently falling back on blue language in lieu of being genuinely clever.
A more fundamental problem lies with Cross, whose mixture of wide-eyed innocent/ugly American/myopic moron has no nuance to engender even a trace of sympathy for his plight. And haven’t we seen Arnett play the same blowhard over and over again, to the point of becoming tiresome?
Mostly, the whole exercise has a deal-driven aroma to it — allowing IFC to offer recognizable talent at a reasonable cost thanks to the program’s (or programme’s) British lineage. Yet as much as the channel likes to promote itself as having an “indie perspective,” merely being offbeat isn’t the same thing as being on target.