He's incredibly unlucky in love. He's a liar. He's terrible at his job. And he's the new point person who gets sent from America to London to sell a new energy drink called Thunder Muscle. He's Todd Margaret, the incompetent main character in IFC's new comedy series "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret." Created, co-written (with Shaun Pye from "Extras") and starring David Cross, this six-episode series also stars Sharon Horgan as Todd's new lady friend, Blake Harrison as Todd's undermining assistant as well as Will Arnett as Todd's foul-mouthed boss. With a soundtrack by The Smiths' Johnny Marr, the show not only has laughs galore but also great music throughout each episode.
Our Jim Halterman chatted with Cross earlier this week to get the scoop on making sure Todd Margaret, for all his faults, is still likable, the upcoming twist in the relationship between Todd and his scheming assistant as well as how he got Johnny Marr to do the music for the show.
Jim Halterman: You created Todd Margaret so I was curious if this is a character you've had in your arsenal for awhile?
David Cross: It was not. This project was approached much differently than any other project, which usually starts with an idea that I have, then I formulate the idea and then pitch that idea. This came about kind of backwards in that I was approached by RDF Media in London - I was in London doing stand-up - and they asked me if I'd be interested in developing a show where I'd be put together with a British writer and producer and then develop the show that I would act in that was specifically for a UK audience but then potentially would be sold to the United States as well. I can't fake being British so I'd have to be an American in London and that's where I came up with the story. I approached the character that would best facilitate that story.
JH: From what I've seen it would appear that by the end of this first six-episode run Todd Margaret is going to end up pissing off all of London!
DC: Oh, his scope reaches beyond London, believe me. If it was just London that would be one thing but as the series progresses he makes a hash out of it everywhere he goes.
JH: A lot of television shows have lessons learned in each episode and characters who grow wiser over time. Is it safe to assume that Todd is not one of these characters?
DC: Certainly not in the first six episodes. I think if it's picked up for a second season... well, it would be in the third season that he would start to wise up.
JH: How does it feel creatively to not have to worry about using course language in the show? Will Arnett's character definitely loves a good curse word!
DC: Absolutely. It makes a world of difference. It would be a different story, a different feeling if we had to censor it.
JH: We find out that Todd's Dad is dead but I know I'm curious to see where this guy came from. Will we see anyone from Todd's family?
DC: Dude, you are getting way ahead... I can't get into that stuff. I just met with Shaun yesterday and went over some of the things that came up with... [Laughs.] I can't go into that.
JH: Dave may be Todd's assistant but his main job seems to be set Todd up for failure. Does Dave continue to make that his objective through these six episodes?
DC: It continues to a point where it has an unintended result for Dave, which he needs to rectify. There's a bit of a mystery to it - especially around episode 4 - where you start questioning things like 'Wait a minute. I thought he said this? Why did he do this? Why did he do that?' There's definitely stuff that's laid into episode 1, 2 and 3 that may not appear to have any meaning or gravitas to it but is important later on. It's definitely a show where the more you pay attention and follow through the more rewarding it's going to be. There are definitely little bits and pieces that start paying off to reveal certain things.
JH: How do you think audiences will respond to Todd? Do you think viewers will be able to relate to him?
DC: God, I hope not! That would speak ill of the audience. The way I see it, everyone will have their own opinion about Todd but I completely empathize with him but I have no sympathy for him. He really does have a heavy hand in creating all these problems. If he was my friend or someone I was hanging out with I would just say 'Dude, what the fuck is wrong with you? Just don't talk to me anymore!' I don't have much of a tolerance for that kind of person but I do empathize with him. He's not an unlikable guy at all. All this stuff comes from an albeit self-serving place. There's no ill will and he's not a malicious or mean guy at all.
JH: Was that a challenge for you creatively to make sure Todd was still likable despite everything he does?
DC: Yeah, I would say that. The challenge was how he would have a hand in all these things over each episode. It was definitely something that Shaun and I would talk about when we were writing.
JH: Talk to me about how you got Johnny Marr of The Smiths to contribute music to the show.
DC: There are a couple of occasions where RDF or Channel 4 would say 'Hey, this might be a good opportunity to get one of your famous friends to come do something!' I have a lot of friends who are musicians and I was putting together a small list. Another thing that RDF said was 'We think that the music should be British" and so I thought of British people that I know and I made a little list and then I remembered 'Oh shit! I know Johnny Marr!' He's the most unassuming, sweetest guy. He's really cool. The music guy at RDF sent his manager an email, Johnny and I connected and the turnaround was astoundingly quick. I was barely off the phone with him before the song came over the email. He scored the whole show! That's all him! In between all the other shit he already does, he did it in a matter of weeks. It was really impressive.
"The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" premieres tonight at 10:00/9:00c on IFC.