Unlike other American comedies, Todd Margaret takes place almost entirely in London, and co-stars two British comedic actors, Sharon Hogan and Blake Harrison. Hogan plays Alice, a restaurateur and Todd’s love interest, while Harrison plays Todd’s employee, Dave, who is constantly antagonizing Todd to do things he shouldn’t—like chug five Thunder Muscle energy drinks and then attempt to sell the drink to some Londoners who are quietly eating at Alice’s Coffee Shop. The show also features Cross’ real life girlfriend, Amber Tamblyn (“Joan of Arcadia”), who plays Todd’s American “girlfriend”.
Todd Margaret is an interesting character, combining the slapstick idiocy of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey’s character in “Dumb and Dumber”) with the inability to tell a convincing lie of Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell’s character in “Anchorman”). Viewers feel constantly embarrassed for him, yet it is this discomfort that makes him laugh-out-loud funny. As much as you can’t bear to watch, you keep doing it anyway, just to see what happens next.
Cross is excited about the prospect of Todd Margaret, particularly working in London with British actors.
“Well, first of all, there is…the insane amount of talent there. Sharon and Blake being two perfect examples. Really funny, smart comedy…It’s great as a writer to write within the parameters of a different culture, and not just make it fish-out-of-water, you know, but create the story and have real people within Todd’s world who are British.”
Within the comedy world, it’s well known that there is quite a difference between British wit and American humor. Todd Margaret is an attempt to bridge this gap—to give both nations something to laugh at. And although Cross is American, he is well versed in British culture (unlike Todd Margaret).
“I think you have to answer that question (pertaining to the difference in American and British comedic sensibilities) in two different ways: One is the general sense, which I think takes into account the kind of stereotypes and generalities, the idea that class is a big issue and fodder for comedy in the U.K., whereas it really isn’t here. Here, race is a big issue, but it’s minimal in the U.K. Those are two differences. It’s perhaps a bit drier sometimes in the U.K. And certainly in the last twenty years, the hardcore comedy enthusiasts, whether in the U.K. or whether in America, all like the same shows. There’s a vast amount of overlap. “Arrested Development” is huge in the U.K. in the comedy community, and “The Office,” the British version of “The Office” was huge in America. And there is quite a bit of overlap. So for comedy fans, people who actively seek it out, I don’t think there is much of a difference at all, you know.”
Todd Margaret will only be a short event on IFC, as Cross has only written six episodes for this first season. But this is something that he is also happy about.
“That was one of the things that was attractive to me about the show is like—and I think probably the biggest, most blatant difference about this show, as opposed to a lot of other comedy shows, is it’s telling a story, it has a beginning, middle, and an end. And I know what the end is. And every episode takes place the next day. So over the life of the series, should it go one, two, three, four, five series, it will all be, tell a story of this journey of this guy and the people around him. And Britain doesn’t really have a lot of those open-ended like, you know, ‘The Office’ where you’re just, ‘Let’s check in on the gang today.’ Or, you know, ‘Friends’ or ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ where there’s no kind of cause-and-effect and consequences. This does, and that’s very British, I suppose.”
Cross, who is well known for his roles in “Arrested Development” and “Mr. Show”, has also made appearances on “The Colbert Report” as the fictional liberal talk show host, Russ Lieber, and has released three live recordings of his comedy—one of which was nominated for a Grammy in 2004. But as modern as Cross is, his influences are classic.
“I grew up deeply influenced by Monty Python, huge influence. If you’ve seen ‘Mr. Show’ you can see it there. And then just through the years of ‘Python’ turned into, you know, any of the Steve Coogan and day-to-day Chris Morris stuff, Armando Ianucci stuff, I mean, big fan.”
TODD MARGARET can be called “Smart Comedy”, and often is by Cross, but really, at the end of the day, it just is funny.
“One of the things I really like about the show is, I know the scripts are funny, he says. “The dialogue is funny, the things people say. The actors are funny. There’s physical comedy. There’s all kinds of different types of comedy, but at the end of the day, I’m also telling a story. if you were to watch it, you know, from start to finish without any commercial breaks, you would see a whole story take place, and that’s as exciting to me as any other element.”