David Cross' funny yet cautionary tale of lies
A small-time loser plucked by his rage-aholic boss Brent (Will Arnett) and sent to London to head up foreign sales of the company's sure-to-fail energy drink, Todd seems unable to not lie, even if there's no benefit in telling the lie, and no chance his lie won't be detected. With the task in front of him though, lying is his only option, as the energy drink is basically illegal, not to mention repellent and toxic. While lying may be his only chance to succeed professionally, it's bound to ruin his personal life, as he'd like to get together with Alice (Sharon Horgan), the only person to show him any kindness (on either side of the pond) but he can't tell her the truth. The lies compound and he gets caught up in more and more trouble, occasionally through no fault of his own, but often from those increasingly poor decisions that give the show its name.
While some of the fiascoes he finds himself embroiled in are a tad ridiculous and overly convenient, including acts of international terrorism, interpersonal terrorism and simple domestic terrorism, after a while it becomes increasingly believable that perhaps some sort of instant karma might strike someone who just can't tell the truth. The joy of watching Todd get caught in a lie and try to lie his way out of it does suffer a bit from diminishing returns though, as there are only so many ways to stammer out of a situation. Thankfully, the hilarious chaos of the situations takes over from the lies over time, exploding when Arnett and Cross start sharing the screen, and the genuine appeal of the story becomes far more important.
Cross is great fun and quite good as Todd, a role that requires him to be both a complete loser and someone worthy of at least pity, if not some sympathy. As he's well-practiced at playing jerks, the loser part was covered but he's surprisingly convincing as a pathetic creature whose world is collapsing around him. Part of why it works so well might be Horgan's work as Alice, as it's hard to question why you would feel for this guy if this warm-hearted woman cares at all about him. Also having Arnett, owner of one of the best angry voices in entertainment, yelling at him is bound to engender some goodwill. The rest of the cast is tremendous as well, from Blake Harrison, as Todd's mischievous assistant Dave, and Colin Salmon (Alice's manly ex Hudson) to Sarah Pascoe, playing Todd's chav neighbor Pam, and Spike Jonze, who steals every scene he's in as weaselly Doug. It's marvelous to see even small roles get memorable performances, as anyone who didn't know Steve Davis before can attest to. (Also look for the tiniest, don't-blink, why-is-she-in-this? cameo by Kristen Schaal.)
One of the things that's most interesting about the series is the intriguing sub-storyline that slowly unfurls over the course of the season, beneath the surface tale of Todd's struggles, one that is told pretty impressively for a comedy show, dropping hints along the way instead of just making the plot obvious. It's appreciated that the story is paced the way it is, rewarding intelligence by not pointing to jokes or important elements with giant neon arrows. This is a bit of a problem though when a major hint is dropped late in the game and the season ends without a real payoff in terms of what exactly is going on, but with the show returning for a second season in January, there is hope for some satisfaction. Don't let that stop you from giving this series a look though.
The episodes are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that reproduce the sound of the show nicely, reflecting the show's lo-fi finances with basic mixes that are center-focused. There are no issues with the clarity of the dialogue, and the show sounds appropriate. It's certainly not going to turn any heads though.
A extended cut of the first episode is included, which has a few bits that should have been included in the show that aired, right from the top with a great voiceover gag. After that, there's a number of featurettes, starting with the 27-minute "An Act of Todd," which serves as a behind-the-scenes overview of the series, covering almost everything in the show. It's done with a real sense of humor, with lots of fun bits throughout. There more in-depth info from the cast and crew in the nearly 30-minute (and well-titled) "Q&A with Cast and Crew." It probably doesn't need to be said, but this shouldn't be viewed until after watching the series, as it is nothing but spoilers, as every major plot point and character element is discussed in detail in talking-head interviews with the folks behind the show. But make sure you watch it to catch the black pudding story, among other fun tales.
"In Remembrance of the Late David Cross" (10:26) focuses on the star of the show and what he brought to the series, with a litany of platitudes from his castmates and some of the crew. It's followed by the four-minute "DVD Extras Extra," a reel of bloopers from on the set and during the featurette interviews, while there's more goofiness in the nine-minute production bloopers reel, including a few screw-ups that made me laugh out loud and some fine improv by Pascoe.
The extras wrap with nearly 11 minutes of deleted scenes, though they are better labeled extended scenes, as they are just segments that aired with some additional gags included, seemingly pulling the added time from improv runs, which are actually pretty funny.
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