THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF TODD MARGARET at the Alamo Drafthouse; Plus a Great David Cross Video Q&A

     January 9, 2012


This weekend in Austin, TX, IFC brought comedian David Cross to the Alamo Drafthouse stage for a one-night-only marathon of Cross’ The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Cross—beer in hand and looking a helluva lot younger than his 47 years—was on hand to introduce the screening, but it was the post-show Q&A that really made the event something special. Good thing I videotaped some it for you guys, eh? Read on for my review (and check out some footage) from this weekend’s The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret marathon at the Drafthouse, after the jump.

the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret-david-crossIf you don’t get IFC as part of your cable package, you’re missing out on one of TV’s best comedies. The good news for those of you who fall into that category is this: David Cross’ The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret—which, yes, airs on IFC—just arrived on DVD, and you can pick it up for a song right now at your local DVD retailer. There’s even better news for those of you who are subscribed to the network: Todd Margaret (which is how we’re going to refer to the series from here on out, if only for sanity’s sake) just started its second season, and based on the things Cross told us at the Alamo Drafthouse last night, it sounds like season two’s going to be even bigger—and crazier—than season one.

Yes, IFC brought David Cross to Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse this weekend, and the results were just as satisfying and hilarious as any Cross fan could have hoped for: before the show, Cross took the stage to talk about what we were about to watch, and afterwards, he took the stage again for an hour-long Q&A that often came across like a standup set. As a fan of Todd Margaret who’s never had the chance to see Cross performing standup live, I’ll admit that I was  pre-disposed to love every second of this particular event, but even those who were unfamiliar with Cross or the show seemed jazzed last night. It certainly helped that Cross stuck around after the Q&A, slamming beers and chatting with anyone in the crowd who had the nerve to approach him (I had my own encounter, which we’ll get to in a moment).

the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret-david-cross-will-arnettBut first, let’s introduce the show to anyone that’s not already onboard with the series: David Cross (who appears to write, produce, cater, and best boy this entire series) plays the titular Todd Margaret, a hapless, idiotic office drone from Portland, Oregon. On day one of the show, an obnoxious, gloriously profane business-exec named Wilts (played by Will Arnett) visits Todd’s office and overhears him yelling into the phone in his cubicle. Assuming that this Todd Margaret guy’s a real go-getter (Todd’s actually practicing lines from “Stop Being Such a Pussy”, a motivational tape that teaches you how to scream into the phone with vigor), Wilts hires him on the spot to head up a new venture the company’s kicking off overseas: the “Thunder Muscle” energy drink campaign. Wilts explains that Brits “go apesh-t” for energy drinks, and further explains that it will be Todd’s job to “tap into that UK market”.

Despite the fact that Todd’s completely inexperienced, stupid, and has never been to the UK (something he lies to Wilts about immediately, which sets a precedent for Cross’ character: Todd Margaret lies compulsively, constantly, even when it’s clearly not in his best interest to do so), he agrees to the job, and what follows is—like it says in the title—six episodes’ worth of shenanigans dealing with the fallout of Todd agreeing to take that job.

the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret-david-cross-1It’s a bit of a “fish out of water” tale, yes, but it’s a helluva long way from, say, King Ralph (side note: didn’t think you were gonna hear a King Ralph reference today, didja?). The entire series is shot through with the same kind of dark, absurdist sense of humor you’d find in a number of other Cross projects (Arrested Development, Mr. Show), and there’s far more to it than the “fish out of water” label might imply. The show’s actors are across-the-board hilarious, and Arnett turns out to be a major character in the series by the time the show gets closer to the end of its six-episode run. The whole thing’s great, and absolutely worth seeking out. It must say something about the show’s quality that I literally just watched the entire series last week (when it arrived on DVD) and still laughed throughout last night’s screening. Not many TV comedies reward that kind of repeat viewing, especially within that brief a time-frame.

If I have a complaint about the show, it’s that it seems to end a little abruptly and without wrapping up all the loose ends that were introduced up to that point, but Cross made it clear during the post-show Q&A that any dangling plot threads will be addressed before the end of season two (I’d assumed that season one was a standalone thing, though I can’t be sure why I thought that); the entire show’s really designed to be consumed as a really long movie divided into twelve parts. But don’t let that dissuade you from checking out Todd Margaret: it’s not as though you’ll be left completely hanging come the end of season one. Just be forewarned that you’re really, really going to want to see season two once the first batch of episodes wraps.

the-increasingly-poor-decisions-of-todd-margaret-posterAnyway, here’s a few highlights from the event’s Q&A:

  • Cross explained that—because of standards and practices on TV in the UK—the show was unable to use the word “motherf-cker”, but had free reign to use words like “c-nt” and phrases like “f-cked in the a–” all they wanted. Meanwhile, when the show aired in the States, standards and practices had no problem with the word “motherf-cker”, but wasn’t amused by the word “c-nt”. Oh, standards and practices, you are such a card.
  • After the Q&A, I had a chance to talk with Cross briefly and asked him if there was any chance that Mr. Show would do another live tour. He shook his head sadly and said, “No, I think the time has passed for that, unfortunately”. By the way, Cross was incredibly down-to-Earth and welcoming in person, contrary to some stuff I’d heard about the guy over the years.
  • Whenever an audience question went on too long or was deemed “bad”, Cross would launch into an impromptu serenade, changing lyrics to well-known romantic ballads to reflect the awkwardness in the room. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of these moments on-camera, because I am a complete failure.
  • Cross was reluctant to share spoilers about the upcoming season, but did share one big one (be forewarned, Todd Margaret fans: it’s about to get spoiler-y up in this piece): Jon Hamm would be playing Dave’s butler.
  • Speaking of Jon Hamm, Cross said that he is “ridiculously perfect” and that he wished “(he) was gay and Jon Hamm was gay and that we were both attracted to one another, because that guy’s the total package”. Funny, tall, handsome, and a good actor: Cross asked, “What happened to ‘the roll of the dice’?”
  • Fans of Cross’ work will be able to find several references to his past projects and standup albums in the show. There’s an “Answer your telephone” shout-out (from Cross’ Shut Up You F-cking Baby), references to Bordon Grote (Mr. Show), and more. Cross said the show’s packed with jokes “you’d only catch on your third viewing”, an homage to Arrested Development’s “freeze-frame jokes”.
  • As far as upcoming projects go, it’s worth noting that Cross made it through the entire Q&A without anyone asking about the Arrested Development movie (he did find time to make an Alvin and The Chipmunks 4 joke, which killed). He also noted that he hopes to come back to Austin in March for SXSW with It’s a Disaster, an indie film he’s hoping to get onto the lineup for this year’s Film Festival (I’ll be covering SXSW this year, and if it’s there, you’ll be reading about it).

Anyway, let’s get to the video. First one’s Cross’ introduction, prior to the screening:

Next up, here’s Cross after the screening (and several beers later), talking about why the show was shot in the UK and how it came about:

Aaaand here’s a continuation of that video. Sorry about that: my thumb hit the “Record” button on my iPad in the middle of Cross’ answer. Whoops.

And, finally, here’s Cross talking about one of the series’ best scenes, the moment when Todd Margaret—having unwittingly found himself on a deaf-people-only tour of the Houses of Parliament— inadvertently offends the assembled crowd by saying something horrible in sign language. Todd doesn’t know what he’s saying in sign language, but does David Cross? Great response here:

And that, my friends, was that. Another night, another great event at the Alamo Drafthouse. Season two of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is playing now (check local listings on IFC in your area to find out when it’s playing this week, should be on Thursday nights), and season one is out on DVD as of last week (or the week before; doesn’t matter, just go buy the damn thing). Stay tuned for more from the Alamo Drafthouse, David Cross, and IFC as soon as it becomes available, folks. Special thanks to the fine folks at Fons PR for setting this one up, not to mention IFC for putting the whole damn thing together.