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Series / The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret

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Things are going to get worse...

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is a sitcom produced by IFC and RDF Television that airs on IFC in the US and on Channel 4 in Britain. The show stars David Cross as Todd Margaret, a low-level employee who, due to a comedic misunderstanding, is selected by his jerk boss Brent Wilts (Will Arnett) to travel to London to sell a North Korean-made energy drink called Thunder Muscle. Although Todd claims to be familiar with British culture, it soon becomes apparent that all he is familiar with are broad outdated stereotypes. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

Todd’s only employee in London is Dave (Blake Harrison), a native Briton who quickly realizes that Todd has no idea about British culture or selling energy drinks and does all he can to take advantage of and embarrass Todd. Rounding out the main cast is Alice (Sharon Horgan), a restaurant owner who dreams of being a molecular gastronomer, who Todd quickly falls for, much to her chagrin.

This show provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: Season 3 reveals the events of the first two seasons to be a very bizarre nightmare that Todd had. Played with in the finale, in which Todd wakes up on the floor of his flat in Season 1, suggesting yet another layer of dream-world.
  • And You Were There: Season 3 Todd awakes from his "dream" to find that everyone he meets in London is an alternate-universe version of the characters from Seasons 1 and 2.
  • Apocalypse How: Of the planetary variety. Todd Margaret pushes the button that sets off numerous nuclear warheads, incinerating the planet. The third season does some interesting things to write itself out of that one.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The list of charges against Todd read out at the beginning of each episode are all pretty terrible, but the one from episode 5 invokes this trope:
    Judge: The charges include: anti-social behaviour, disruption of national solemnity, money laundering, lewd sexist behaviour, failure to pay for a cranberry juice?!
  • Asshole Victim: Brent is an asshole and suffers from episode 5 onwards.
  • As Himself: It is eventually revealed that Dave's nervous valet, played by Jon Hamm, is actually the man himself, cowed into working for Dave through his money and influence.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Subverted by Dave, who recommends a clothing store to Todd for his date so he'll look like a "proper English gentleman". When Todd shows up for his date with Alice he tells her he purchased new clothing for the event, to which she responds, "Where, 1872?"
  • Backhanded Compliment: How Alice thanks Todd for getting her a job at La Molecule.
    Alice: She said that the man who recommended me wasn't her type. At first I thought it was a black-white thing, but then I realized it was a gorgeousness thing!
  • Bad Liar: Most of Todd's increasingly poor decisions involve lying, which he's not very good at.
  • Berserk Button: Steve Davis beats Todd with a pool cue because he couldn't pronounce "snooker" correctly.
  • Big Bad Friend: Dave, who is secretly the mysterious "Mr. Mountford", orchestrated the entire series from the beginning as revenge for two minor slights against him by Brent Wilts and Todd Margaret.
  • Black Comedy: The humor in this series is very dark and grows increasingly so.
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: Every reading of the charges in the first season has one.
    High Court Justice: The charges include child endangerment, embezzlement, persistent public urination...
  • Bribe Backfire: In trying to procure a liquor license for Alice, Todd tries to introduce his friend "Mr. Benjamin" to a British official. Not understanding at first that in Britain the currency is pounds, he then tries to guess who is on British currency (including Winston Churchill, a bulldog, a lady drinking tea, and The Beatles). Finally examining the currency, he is unfamiliar with the official. "Adam Smith? How was I supposed to guess that?!"
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Todd can't seem to go an episode without urinating or defecating his pants, either out of fear or due to an overdose of stimulants of some sort.
  • British Brevity: Actually a British-American co-production but the seasons are only 6 episodes long for a total of 18 as of 2016.
  • Butt-Monkey: Todd's life becomes increasingly worse because he messes things up.
  • Call-Back: There are many of these throughout the first two seasons, and then the third takes it up to eleven.
  • Canada, Eh?: Todd briefly lapses into this when Brent suggests that he should become Alice's "type" in order to impress her, proving that it's not just the British who he is insensitive toward.
  • Character Death: In the finale, Alice is blown up by the Turks' truck thanks to Todd.
  • The Chessmaster: Dave, so very much. He displays abilities at running a Batman Gambit that dips into Xanatos Speed Chess when Todd gets arrested and his game is at risk of ending prematurely.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Alice is a subdued version of this; she seems polite, down to Earth, and normal.
    • Then there's the season 3 version of Alice, who initially seems to be the same character, only more successful and actually interested in Todd romantically. She's later revealed to be a white nationalist.
  • Cringe Comedy: Good lord. Most of the humor is based around awkward situations that Todd gets into through lying, which get worse as he tries to wiggle out of them.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Todd gets paid with a suitcase of cash, when he tries to pass one of the bills, the recipient refuses it, pointing out that there shouldn't be a "Y" in "Bank of England", and that the woman's face on the obverse is not Elizabeth II, but Helen Mirren. It is also in a £30 denomination.
  • Disproportionate Retribution / The Dog Was the Mastermind: The season 2 finale reveals that Dave has been orchestrating an elaborate revenge against Todd and Brent because they were rude to him in a Portland bar several months earlier.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone fails and/or dies.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Alice dies in an explosion at the end, as a final twist of the knife.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • Todd Margaret flies halfway round the world to sell energy drinks without a second's consideration, and is on the defensive from the minute his plane lands in England.
    • Dave tells Todd that snooker player Steve Davis is "bigger than Beckham." Beckham is 183cm tall, while Davis is 187cm.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Todd's blatant and escalating lies drive most of the plot. Among other things he insists: his father died last week, he grew up in Leeds (a city he picked at random based on an an album cover), he is allergic to nuts (going so far as faking anaphalactic shock and taking unnecessary epinephrine shots), and he lives in the houses of Parliament (he claims it has apartments now).
  • Haute Cuisine Is Weird: Alice and La Molecule subscribe to a style of cuisine that is more chemistry than cooking. They concocts such bizarre foods as "oxtail toothpaste made with pancetta gas"
  • How We Got Here:
    • Each episode of the first season opens with Todd restrained in front of a rowdy British Court being read a list of outrageous charges. This happens two weeks after Todd arrives in London, and the show chronicles how he got into that predicament.
    • In the second season, each episode begins with Todd in North Korea, apparently about to push a nuclear button at gunpoint. This is only a handful of days after the court appearance.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Todd is so sure that there's nothing important to know about British culture, even after repeated beatings, misunderstandings and criminal charges due to his ignorance.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: All the episodes have long descriptive titles, many of which actually start "In Which..."
  • It Amused Me: Dave set up Todd and Brent for his own amusement.
  • Jerkass: Todd's boss Brent Wilts. He can't seem to speak a sentence without throwing in a term like "numb nuts", "fucktard", or something similar. It's revealed gradually throughout that he used to be just as meek as Todd. Dave had been giving him self help CDs that taught him to act like a Jerkass.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Doug Whitney: "How could Dave know that Brent Wilts would at that EXACT moment would walk past when Todd Margaret was listening to those self help CDs back in Portland?"
  • Mistaken for Racist:
    • Dave convinces Todd to wear a T-shirt advocating the British National Party, a political party infamous for advocating racial purity. Todd, being an American, merely considers it an "I Love England T-shirt".
    • In season 3, Todd ends up at a white supremacist rally and is mistaken for one himself by both the supremacists and the anti-racist protesters outside the venue.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: As in the Mistaken for Racist example, this starts with Dave pranking Todd. Todd then proves he's capable of creating the same misunderstanding on his own.
  • Nuke 'em: Todd does this in the season 2 finale to the entire planet.
  • Only Sane Man: Alice, Doug, and Dave, who react to Todd's idiocy.
    • Alice is the only one to figure out Dave's game.
  • Playing Sick with an in-universe Plot Allergy: Todd escapes being seen at the bar by faking a nut allergy. Later, at Alice's, he begins eating a box of chocolate covered hazelnuts; in panic, Hudson sticks Todd with an epi-pen, *twice*, which actually triggers an allergic reaction.
  • Sadist Show: It's like watching everyone you've ever hated distilled into one person ruining his life over and over again in funny ways.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Brent finally realizes how hopeless Todd's trial is, he leaves the courtroom, telling Todd to stall for time until he gets back. He then immediately proceeds to get on a plane back to America.
  • Serial Escalation: You thought things were bad at the beginning?
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Alice dies suddenly, making the whole romantic subplot moot.
  • Shout-Out: in one episode, Todd prays for guidance. His prayer begins with the words:
  • Smug Smiler: Dave, who smiles smugly very often.
  • Special Guest: A bit of Adam Westing by real-life pro snooker player Steve Davis. Davis both lampoons and subverts his reputation for being thin-lipped and boring.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Todd's description of Dave to the police.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: The terrorists try to con Margaret into refusing an immediate payment on the energy drinks by implying that it would prevent the mother from buying her medication. Todd just stares blankly at them without any reaction, forcing them to try a second tact, which Todd is dumb enough to fall for.
  • Unfortunate Names: Our titular character. A bartender bluntly tells him, "Margaret? That's a girl's name!"
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Todd occasionally comes off as a lovable loser, but it is hard to feel sorry for him most of the time. In any unexpected situation he finds himself in, his default response is to lie about it, and try to weave this new lie into his increasingly complex and imaginary "life story". His seemingly willful ignorance makes it worse.
    • In Season 3, after Seasons 1 & 2 are revealed to be All Just a Dream, Todd is unsympathetic for the opposite reason: he's a brutally honest Jerkass.
  • Very False Advertising: Todd's London apartment is much worse than advertised.