David Cross discusses the 2nd season of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret premiering January 6th

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is the Lost of half-hour comedies. It's a twisting gut punch of absurd hilarity that builds and builds in its attempt to take it one more step over the edge. And creator/star David Cross has certainly done that with Season 2.

Returning to IFC on January 6th, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret brings six all-new episodes of this raucous series, which retraces the wrong-headed steps of a pathological liar as he attempts to sell an energy drink to a country that just isn't interested in them.

Forget about Arrested Development. The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is the new obsession you should be obsessing about. We recently caught up with David Cross to chat about this series, his passion for fart jokes, and the possibility of a Christmas special.

Here is our conversation.

David Cross: What do you got for me? What Arrested Development questions do you not want me to answer?

I have no Arrested Development questions. I have a question about Louis C.K. Despite the Pootie Tang connection, I don't know if you guys are friends...

David Cross: Oh, we are old, old, old, old friends. We go way back. We were roommates for a period. Briefly. Back in the day.}


David Cross: Yeah, yeah...

I don't know if you've been watching his show, but I think he had one of the funniest fart gags seen in quite some time...

David Cross: I didn't see it. For real. What was it?

His sister comes to the house. And she is having these terrible pains. She needs to go to the hospital, as it looks like a dire emergency. And Louie gets into it with his next-door neighbors, trying to find someone to watch his kids. There's a lot of screaming. There's nothing really funny about the situation. Then he gets her to the hospital...Do you want me to ruin the punch line?

David Cross: I think I figured it out.

Yeah. She has bad gas. Now, we have your scene in this first episode of the new season. And its one of the funniest fart gags seen in awhile. Critics always complain about fart jokes. The complaint is that farts are never funny. Here you prove that notion way wrong. I thought maybe you and Louie had a wager to see who could come up with the best fart gag. But I guess that's not the case...

David Cross: That is not the case. Although, I am happy to be an unwitting part of it. I find that, if anyone says fart scenes aren't funny, its because they are either uptight or pretentious. Or, the fart scene isn't funny. There are plenty of unfunny fart scenes. But, just like rape, it's an untapped laugh source (laughs). Oh...

Season 2 also has a continuing rape joke from Season 1...

David Cross: Well...It's not a "rape" joke. Let's be fair. I really don't want to turn off the audience...

It's a "drapes" joke, is what it is...

David Cross: It's a joke with the word "rape" in it. But, yes, I think that fart scene is particularly funny because there really was a guy named the Yorkshire Ripper, who was a serial killer in the 1970s, in Leads. That's what makes it extra special funny.

And then, just the way Todd Margaret handles the situation that arises from that fart of his is just brilliant. It is. And I know you hear that you are quite brilliant all the time. But its one of the funniest scenes I've seen on television in a long time, especially when you start talking about fart jokes...

David Cross: Thank you.

While talking to you during the release of Season 1, you explained that you had all of Season 2 already mapped out. I've now seen the first two episodes of Season 2, and I want to know, from the get-go, did you always plan to have Blake Harrison as the villain of the show?

David Cross: Yes. Yeah.

You show this hand right off the bat in episode one of Season 2. What pushed this decision, to show Blake as the villain right from the start this time?

David Cross: That is a very good question. It's interesting. I felt like...And we talked about this, Shaun Pye and I...He is the other writer on the show... It's a calculated gamble. We assumed that people would figure it out pretty quickly. Did we want to take the chance that they wouldn't figure it out? And we could have more fun with it? Or, gamble that they would figure it out, and it would be less fun for the audience. Internally, they would be going, "Yeah, yeah...I get it, I know, and it's not that much fun anymore." The only person you need to trick is the audience. Because Todd is always going to be tricked. We talked a lot about this. Do we do it in episode one? Two? Three? What do we do? Eventually, as you can see, we decided that people were going to be way ahead of us on this. Let's just get it out there, and really have fun with it. It allows you, also, when you see episode one of Season 2, to go back to Season 1, and see all of the clues we put in there, that you would have missed...I guarantee, most people did miss...That first go around, you can go back and watch it, and go, "Oh, I get it! That's why, when his phone rings, he gets up and leaves." He took the call because he's really the guy. Very pertinent to this particular conversation is that the The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret - Season 1 DVDs are coming out on December 27th. They are loaded with all of this extra shit, beyond the commentaries. There are a ton of extras. We have a whole section devoted to...Here's a clue, watch this, this will get you up to speed for Season 2. It was something we discussed quite a bit. We decided, fuck it. Let's have fun with it. Because everybody is going to be ahead of us.

In selling the DVD, that is the brilliance of the show. Not having seen Season 1 since it premiered last year, just watching the first two episodes of Season 2 demands that you go back and watch those first six episodes again. It's hard to come into this new season cold. Its so details and complicated, in its own way...

David Cross: That was always the intent. You can't do that with an American show. What I mean by that is, not just because its an American show and an American audience...But because of the British model of having six episodes in one season. Which means you write each episode before you go and shoot it. And you shoot each and every episode before you go and edit it. So we were able to pay attention to the story, and to the logic points. We could go back. When we were on set, we could go, "You know what we should do? We should have him wear that thing from episode one!" It's about those things. It allowed us to drop more clues and hints. I was always interested in a show that wasn't just a comedy show. It's got something deeper going on. At the time of writing the pilot, which goes back about three years ago, I was heavily under the influence of Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Those were the shows I was really into. I liked the idea, that the show had a mystery to it. That the audience is rewarded for paying attention. And for trying things out. If you go into some of the chat rooms, were people talk about the show, a lot of them gave up after the first or second episode. They said, "I don't care, it's not funny, I don't like it..." But the people that stuck with it? You can see, probably around episode four, but definitely with five and six...People were suddenly saying, "Something's going on here..." People were talking about it, "That's why in episode three, he said blah, blah, blah about whatever." People really started to catch on at the end, there.

And going off of that, just having watched episodes one and two of Season 2, I would think that it's incredibly hard to find the ending for each of these episodes. It's really set up like a three-hour movie, that is chopped into six pieces...

David Cross: Dude, the single most painful thing to do...Not in the writing...But the hardest thing to do is write these scripts, shoot these shows, and then cut them to be nineteen minutes and twenty-five seconds. We have so much story we have to get in there. There is so much great shit. I wish I could expand it. Initially, that was the idea. As you know, this was a co-production between the UK and the States. In the UK, you don't have commercials. You just have one chunk of a commercial space in the middle. You don't have to come up with act breaks. Its really hard to edit an ending together. Even though the story is there. That, in a relative sense, was not the most difficult thing we were doing. We knew that we wanted to go to the hospital. We wanted Todd to go to Leads. We wanted to do these things. It was just a matter of getting him there. But artificially creating that ending was tough. It was difficult. I answered a different question than the one you asked...

It's always kind of a disappointment when we get to the end. Because I'm never expecting it. These first two episodes? They just end. Its over and I have to wait until next week. That abrupt ending helps bring people back the next week...

David Cross: Definitely. That's...Yeah...That's not necessarily my concern as a writer. Making sure people come back. Because it's just an unpleasant fact for the network, you are only going to watch it once on the air. The vast majority of the people that watch this show in its life will watch it on DVD. They will watch it at their leisure, and they will watch it the way they want to watch it. In a way, I am writing and creating to that end. But yeah, we did want a cliffhanger feeling in what happens next. IFC was very helpful with that as well. They would say, "We think it should end here." As we said, we weren't writing with an eye towards that. But they were able to look at it and say, "Oh, why don't you end it here? This will get people to tune in next week."

With the guest starts you have this season...Its weird to me, and this may be the intention...But it's a bit jarring to see John Hamm utilized the way he is. As a secondary character that doesn't have much focus being placed upon him. His character is almost an afterthought here in the first two episodes...I don't know if this is the deconstruction of a guest star? If it's a role that starts small and then will build as the series reaches for its conclusion...

David Cross: That part was written with him in mind. We knew what we wanted to happen with that character. That character was written with the idea of a cameo in mind. Then, it was tailored towards Jon Hamm, once he signed on. Really, this is the only example of this in the entire series.

Does his character continue on through all six episode?

David Cross: I'm not going to tell you that.

That's a secret. You are also working with Russ Tamblyn. How is that to work with such a legendary actor? Especially considering you are in a relationship with his daughter. Do you ever get nervous...

David Cross: No, dude, I am already under so much stress and pressure on this show, why would I introduce the element of that, if we didn't get along, or if it was weird? He was great. Amber was instrumental in the beginning, while I was writing it, plus Russ was over there... Russ and his wife were visiting Amber and I in London. She was like, "Just have my dad do it, it'll be great." I was like, "Yeah. Great!" And he is great. He is an elder statesman. Especially with all that crazy shit he had to do. Bumping into the table? That was all him. Falling over? The guy needs knee replacement surgery, and he is giving 100 and 10 percent out there!

He's awesome. The whole ghost bit is hilarious. Emmy, maybe? I don't know what you say to that. Now, last question, we are getting a new intro in this Season 2. We see you about to push a button that could possible lead to the destruction of the world as we know it. Is this something that is being set up for Season 3? Or are you going to end it all here with Season 2?

David Cross: Um...I...All will be revealed! All will be revealed!

In Season 2? Or do you mean in general, throughout however many seasons this could run?

David Cross: In Season 2. You will get your answers.

Is this one of those things, were you do two seasons, and then for the next ten years, people are asking where the movie is...

David Cross: Oh, God no! I've already gone through that with the Arrested Development movie. I don't want to have to go through that again, ever. Never.

That's the parallel.

David Cross: No.

It's building such a strong cult following. And that will only grow as Season 2 airs, and then eventually comes to DVD. Even though you won't give it. People will start asking for it.

David Cross: A Christmas Special. That's what they do in Britain. They do Christmas Specials.

Is that something you would do?

David Cross: I'm not planning on it. But if people would like it, I would consider that.

I'd like to see it. But how does that work exactly? Being Jewish and doing a Christmas Special?

David Cross: I will go pray to the ghost of Rabbi Schneerson, and hope that Moshiach is coming any second now, and that he will give me his blessing...Things could happen...The Talmud teaches us so many wonderful things, it gives us so many wonderful life lessons...Who's to say?

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret kicks off Season 2 on January 6th. Only on IFC.

B. Alan Orange at Movieweb
B. Alan Orange