Have you ever had one of those days when every decision you seem to make, however logical or well intentioned it may seem, backfires on you? Welcome to the world of Todd Margaret, where that day is a pattern repeated on a daily basis in the bizarre and at times hysterical comedy, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.
Todd Margaret is the brainchild of David Cross, who also plays the dangerously befuddled lead character. Todd is just a number in a faceless corporation, a meaningless cog in a dubious corporate giant. He also knows just how insignificant he is within that organisation, taking as he does to self-affirmation recordings to build up his self-esteem. But no self-help recording could have built him up for the insanity and trail of destruction Todd would soon unintentionally leave around the world, courtesy of some misguided, ill-judged and cruelly manipulated decisions.
As Todd’s foul-mouthed boss Brent Wilts (Will Arnett) patrols his office looking for a hapless victim, he overhears a dominant speech from within one of the many office cubicles. Angrily putting whoever is on the other end of his phone call in his place, a speech is coming from someone with a no-nonsense drive that Wilts likes the sound of…just the kind of guy to send across the Atlantic to launch the company’s new energy drink, Thunder Muscle. What Wilts doesn’t know is that this person, Todd, is actually just repeating his self-affirmation exercises playing to him down his headphones and is in fact exactly the sort of person not to lead the company’s product launch. But the decision is made.
Seeing his opportunity, Todd heads off to the London warehouse ready to lead the team…except he doesn’t really have one. When he arrives, the vast floor is almost empty. One desk for Todd, another at the other end of the wide open space occupied by Dave (Blake Harrison in the series, Russell Tovey in the pilot). Dave appears to be a well-meaning if somewhat mischievous ally to Todd and the only UK-based colleague, but his true nature and identity become more relevant as the show progresses.
Todd has almost zero knowledge of the world beyond America, so anybody prepared to show him the slightest hint of friendship is welcomed with open arms. The only person he seems to be able to fully trust is Alice Bell (Sharon Horgan), owner of a small café near Todd’s temporary home, and so he will do anything to ingratiate himself with her.
Todd arrives in the UK already with problems and these only get worse with every passing moment. Knowing nothing about either the UK, salesmanship or the toxic waste of a product being passed off as an energy drink, advice that Dave gives him is seized upon, but inevitably Todd’s actions take the bad advice and extend it to catastrophic status. To make matters worse, Wilts is on his way to the UK to check up on the sales progress of Thunder Muscle.
In order to try and generate sales for his trading boss, Todd goes with the idea of finding a well-known sports personality to act as a spokesman for the drink. Unfortunately, he ends up meeting up with six-times World Snooker Champion Steve Davis, who outwits Todd in his fee negotiation and subsequently causes chaos during filming of a promotional advert taking place, somewhat inevitably, at Alice’s café.
Inevitably, as Todd makes one further bad decision after another in attempt to cover up his failings and previous lies, his life spirals out of control. He brings chaos to all around him, most frustratingly to the apple of his eye, Alice and without spoiling the end of the first series the conclusion is shocking and yet predictable as Todd’s decisions only ever go one way.
Seasons two and three stretch credibility to new levels. Suffice to say, Todd’s failings have gone from a fake salesman trying to keep his job to international incidents and street protests to have him hanged, but because there is a naivety about him that just makes him likeable enough to maintain our sympathy, we remain firmly in his corner. Alice is sweetly innocent, while the manipulation by Dave and the revolting individual that Wilts is ensure that there is only one person we are rooting for.
The critical reception of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret wasn’t entirely positive, with some quarters believing that being a joint effort between Channel 4 and American company IFC meant the writers didn’t seem to quite know who their target audience was. That said, it has gained quite the following for the absurdity of its situations and the darkness of its sometimes hilarious humour. And if viewers unfamiliar to the show wonder whether to give it a try, well the sight of Steve Davis beating Todd to within an inch of his life with his cue because Todd consistently failed to master the pronunciation of the word snooker has to surely be worth your time.
Review - Brian Slade
Published on May 13th, 2022. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.