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'Arrested Development' star back with new show

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
David Cross, center, stars in the new IFC series "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret."
David Cross, center, stars in the new IFC series "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret."
  • David Cross co-created, stars in "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret"
  • The show also features his "Arrested Development" co-star, Will Arnett
  • The show, set in Britain, originally aired in the U.K. and premieres on IFC

(CNN) -- Ask actor/comedienne David Cross about his poor decisions and he will more than likely joke that the biggest one was naming his new television show "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret."

"I think just the idea of putting the words 'poor decisions' in the title because people keep asking me that question," Cross said. "If I had thought about it I'd be like 'Oh my God, now I'm going to have to answer what's your poorest decision?'"

Such is the humor of the man beloved for his wry stand-up and hilarious portrayal of fan favorite Tobias Fünke in the dearly departed "Arrested Development" series. Cross' new show finds him functioning as a type of creative everyman as co-creator, writer and star of "Todd Margaret" which premiered Friday on IFC.

The six-episode comedy series centers on the title character, a hapless temp who lucks into a gig heading the London office of an American based company.

Cross recently spoke with CNN about the differences between British and American humor, why he'll probably never shake working with "Arrested Development" co-star Will Arnett and how Fünke compares to Margaret.

CNN: So how did this new series come about?

David Cross: I was in London in 2007 doing stand up and two lovely, posh English ladies approached me after the show and inquired whether I would be interested in creating a show for the U.K. where I would write it for myself to be in, but write it with a British writer and/or production team. It would be for the U. K., but with the potential to sell it to America as well. [Cross created the show with English comic Shaun Pye]

Then it was a matter of coming up with an idea that fit those specifications.

CNN: How challenging was that given that British and American humor can be very different?

Cross: I don't think they are very different.

In the extreme there is a vast difference between say "Two and a Half Men" and the British version of "The Office." There's a huge gulf there. But there's a lot of overlap too.

As an example, "The Office" was created for the U.K. and we Americanized it which was basically taking the edge off of it and taking some of the more unlikable characteristics from the David Brent character and what would become the Michael Scott character and making him more likeable.

That's the difference between American and British humor. They have quite a craving for awkward, uncomfortable situations and a lot of their stuff deals with class and ours doesn't. A lot of our humor is race or cultural differences which they don't really have a great deal of. That's really the only difference I see.

But it all translates, especially now that you have so many American television shows on British TV. It seeps into the culture there.

Maybe not every one in American but certainly those who are fans of comedy and seek it out are well versed in British humor like "The Office," "Peep Show," and "The IT Crowd."

CNN: Did you want to work with IFC so your show could be edgier than if it were on network television?

Cross: Absolutely. We shot the pilot and it aired in the U.K. before IFC became involved and it's a good way of doing it because then you have a finished product.

I went in and I told everybody that was interested in the show said "This is where it's going, this is what we are going do, and this is what happens." So when you have all that and you have the pilot in which Will Arnett (as Todd's boss Brent Wilts) says really horrifically, crass things and they go "Yeah that's great," that's about the best situation you can be in because they know what they are going to get.

CNN: You and Arnett are so great together having worked on "Arrested Development," "Running Wilde" and "Todd Margaret." Are you guys going to keep up this partnership?

Cross: We may have to. It's going to be one of these things where the other person will create another show and even if we are mortal enemies, we will be putting each other in our shows just to save face.

It's great because we get to play totally different characters. You couldn't have a more different guy than the character I play in "Running Wilde" [as Andy the radical environmentalist] and Todd Margaret.

CNN: Todd Margaret seems loveably clueless as was Tobias Fünke. What attracts you to that type of character since it's very much unlike your stand up.

Cross: I hadn't really thought about it, but a couple of people have brought that up so it's clearly a viable thing.

Maybe it's that it is quite opposite of who I am. I play a lot of a**holes too, certainly in "Running Wilde." I've got nothing positive to say about that kind of guy. It's really fun to do, but I just absolutely loath that kind of person in real life.

I don't know, maybe it's the chance to do something different. With the Todd character I didn't sit down and go "Ok, I'm going to play this guy, what do I want to play?" Really, the story came first and then figuring out what character would be best to facilitate the story.

With Tobias, I was initially asked to look at [the character of] Gob which I did not have a handle on at all, but as I was reading the script I loved Tobias and I got that guy immediately.

They are fun to play because I don't have a lot of tolerance for those types of guys in real life. If Todd Margaret was my friend, at numerous points in that series I would have had to pull him aside and say "What the [expletive] are you doing?"