First Watch: The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret – “In Which Claims Are Made and a Journey Ensues” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Netflix is probably the reason that this particular blog exists. Sure, maybe my partner might have made his own blog in due time, but I would like to think it would be a much different animal if I wasn’t a part of the project — I digress. After taking a look at the shows I’ve watched (and how much of my life I’ve wasted doing so), I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t watch many series prior to Netflix. I spent most of my time as a passive watcher catching episodes of shows here and there. Netflix transformed me into a true consumer of television. So, it makes sense that when Netflix has told me repeatedly that I would enjoy a series, I probably owe it to Netflix to check the series out, right?

That’s where The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret comes in.

Luckily for me, the title of the series really tells you all you need to know about it. The show follows Todd Margaret (David Cross) and the series of increasingly poor decisions that he makes over the course of fourteen days which culminate with Todd being on trial for funding a terrorist organization, possessing biological weapons, blackmail and possession of child pornography with intention to distribute. Oops.

After jumping straight into Todd’s trial, the show jumps back fourteen days to the events that started everything. Todd, a temp, is sitting in an office, listening to a self-help CD titled “Stop Being Such a Pussy”, when the new boss, Brent Wilts (Will Arnett), overhears Todd practicing his badass ‘inner warrior’ self-help speech.  Wilts believes Todd was yelling at a customer and thinks that he’s a real “take-shit-from-no-one” kind of guy, prompting him to offer Todd a promotion selling North Korean energy drinks (called Thunder Muscle) to the British — if he knows the market. Todd “succeeds” in lying his way through the chat with Wilts and nabs himself that promotion across the ocean. Unfortunately, that’s probably the best decision he makes in the entire pilot.

Over the course of the 23-minute pilot, Todd also decides to:

  • tell his “girlfriend” that he’s going to have to break up with her since he is going overseas.
  • give his cat a month’s worth of food and water, but does make sure to tell the cat to ration it out while he is gone.
  • leave his suitcase on the sidewalk, which causes a whole ordeal with the police department.
  • try to lie (terribly) to his only employee at Thunder Muscle, a quick-witted young man named Dave (Blake Harrison) who uses Todd’s poor decision-making to make him look like an even bigger fool than he already manages to do by himself.
  • tries to sell Thunder Muscle to a cafe full of people who want nothing to do with it and ends up drinking six Thunder Muscle to demonstrate how energizing they can be — as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t end very well for Todd.

I spent most of my half-hour with Todd Margaret cringing with too few laughs to make up for it. There are plenty of comedies that make you cringe due to the poor decisions some of the characters make (the Bluths of Arrested Development and Michael Scott of The Office come to mind), but those shows tend to have a better balance of cringe and laughter than Todd Margaret achieves. David Cross seems to suffer from the same problem that Will Arnett has with his television shows — Arnett and Cross are strongest in recurring guest roles or in ensemble casts where they can shine alongside other funny people, but tend to struggle to carry a series on their own. The two need strong supporting characters to reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, I found Todd Margaret is passable at best, but many people around the internet have given the show very positive reviews. It is possible that I haven’t reached the Turning Point in the series yet, but it also just might not be for me. David Cross put a lot of love into this series (I believe he funded the entire thing himself) and was ended by Cross’ wishes rather than being cancelled (IFC wanted a third season, actually), so there must be something good buried in here. I’m just not sure I want to dig for it just yet.

  • Rating: “Passable.”
  • Comment: Todd Margaret wasn’t my cup of tea, but it might be yours if you’re a fan of David Cross.
  • You might like The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret if you like: awkward comedies, constantly cringing while you laugh, Arrested Development, Bored to Death, Mr. Show, The Office (US), 

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret aired on IFC and concluded in its second season. The series can still be found on Netflix.

About Daniel

I'm a guy who spends way too much time playing board games and watching television with his friends. View all posts by Daniel

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