In IFC's The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, David Cross plays a man whose little white lies snowball to such a degree that in one week he's gone from meek office temp to a criminal on trial for "funding a terrorist organization, possession of biological weapons, possession of child pornography, blackmail, espionage..."
The show begins with a shot of a terrified Todd Margaret on trial, and then flashes back to our dimwitted hero just days prior. His descent begins when his boss (Will Arnett in a small, recurring role) mistakes him for a take-no-prisoners kind of guy and sends him to London to hawk a dubious energy drink called Thunder Muscle.
Cross, 46, developed and wrote the series alongside Shaun Pye (Extras). He talks to TVGuide.com about the tequila shots that led to the series, lending his street cred to that other show he's on, and why IFC would have to be insane not to renew his Increasingly Poor Decisions.
And, no, Cross has no idea when or if an Arrested Development movie will be made, but, yes, it's a wonderful idea.
TVGuide.com: Todd is a bumbling idiot, but he's relatively grounded, especially compared to, say, Tobias Funke.
David Cross: There was definitely a conscious effort to write and perform the character so he's not just a cad or incorrigible. On the other hand, it's infuriating that Todd won't do what any normal person would do. Any normal person at a certain point would just say, "OK, I lied about that thing, I'm sorry. Let's try to right the situation." Todd gets caught up in the ease of lying, which is also sort of a normal thing to do, I suppose. So I guess he's...
TVGuide.com: ... a crazy cautionary tale?
Cross: Yes. And actually, the other thing that you don't get immediately, but will begin to reveal itself in the middle, is that some of the people in and around Todd's life are not quite who they appear to be.
TVGuide.com: Mystery! Intrigue!
Cross: There is a Lost element to it. There are a lot of hatches.
TVGuide.com: What starts as a small mess becomes a disaster pretty quickly because all the action takes place in a week.
Cross: It's one of the coolest things about the show. What will differentiate it from a lot of other comedies is that there is a story being told. Every episode takes place in a day, more or less. Everything compounds in a much more realistic way because of that, and also in a way that's heightened. The danger is heightened. This clueless guy commits a huge list of crimes in no time at all. It would feel like a movie if you watched all the episodes together without commercials. The stuff I've worked on before, all being satisfying and interesting and worthwhile, didn't have this human, story-telling element. I'm just really excited about it.
TVGuide.com: Even though Todd gets himself into this mess, you do begin to feel for him.
Cross: On paper, some of the things that happen are crazy, but it actually makes sense in the flow of the story. As we were editing the final episode, I said to myself, this is surprisingly poignant! And we didn't write it that way. We knew what we were writing was funny and clever, and I was very happy, but the actors really elevated the material. I mean, it's real. It's way more real than I expected. It was like, "Oh my God, this is sad! I feel really bad."
TVGuide.com: How did the show come together? Where did the idea come from?
Cross: I was in the U.K. doing stand-up at this club and I was approached by a very posh woman after one of my shows. She asked me if I'd be interested in creating a show with a U.K. producer-writer to air in the U.K. I dismissed her out of hand because I had just gotten off stage. But then they brought me tequila shots and I thought, "Alright, this is fine." The idea to do a show started there. But the first idea we had in no way resembles the show we made.
TVGuide.com: How is it different?
Cross: We wanted to be conscious of not simply doing a fish-out-of-water story, and it could have turned into that. We didn't want to go, "Here's the clueless American coming over to Britain," and make that the main source of comedy. So it changed.
TVGuide.com: You're also starring in Fox's Running Wilde opposite Will Arnett and Keri Russell. The pilot went through some big changes before its premiere, including casting you as Russell's on-screen fiancé.
Cross: Well, I give it street cred. I'm playing him as a real strident, obnoxious, in-your-face lefty who thinks he knows everything but doesn't actually know s---. And he's a huge [sissy]. His solution is to throw a brick through a Starbucks window, but if the cops come, he's running. He's one of those guys.
TVGuide.com: It's little bit of an Arrested Development reunion between you, Arnett and series creator Mitch Hurwitz.
Cross: Yeah, I'd say Running Wilde has the good parts of Arrested Development. It's very broad. It's crammed with jokes, and I mean crammed, like Arrested was. There's a lot of wordplay. But it's not about a family; it's about a relationship. It's about these two people trying to make each other better.
TVGuide.com: Will The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret continue beyond a season? He's on trial for serious offenses.
Cross: It's all going to take place over — knock on wood — three to five seasons. I know where the story will go.
TVGuide.com: Has IFC made any assurances that you'll be able to do more seasons?
Cross: No, but we'd have to really just fail on such a huge level. The show doesn't cost much of anything. They seem to be happy. They'd be insane not to let us do more.
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret premieres Friday, Oct. 1 at 10/9c on IFC.