This article previously appeared on Crossfader
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Corporations and existential malaise go together like corporations and environmental destruction, or corporations and armed international conflicts. Corporations and any horrible thing, really. Workplace comedies often explore the soul-sucking nature of office labor, but CORPORATE puts the pedal to the clinically depressed metal. The low level employees of Hampton DeVille—the company slogan is “we make everything”—go through their days as glaze-eyed slugs, while the executives fight like starving cannibals for the slightest inch up the ladder. We take all this in through the eyes of Matt (Matt Ingebretson) and Jake (Jake Weisman), two junior executives-in-training that ricochet between self-hatred and power mania. Truly a show tailor-made for the current worldwide era of panic, CORPORATE aims to whimsically delve into the things that make us really, really sad.
As far as comedic duo concepts go, Matt and Jake tread familiar ground with an optimistic lamb and a cynical realist, respectively. But Matt seems aware that his efforts to resist the call of the void are futile, showing little surprise or disappointment when his dreams shatter in front of him. His optimism is also often overwhelmed by his suggestibility, easily accepting and agreeing with Jake’s depressing observations. Jake is a more classic misanthrope, gleefully exploiting anything or anyone to further his own interests and discussing those selfish intentions with a familiar bluntness. Their exchanges contain most of the dark punches, incorporating the style of jokes they’re known to practice on Twitter. It’s a joke format that takes finesse to transition to the camera, and CORPORATE does so beautifully.
It’s even backwards compatible, and their social media team knows it
Despite this being their first TV project, Ingebretson and Weisman have surrounded themselves with some established talent that they put to hysterical use. Lance Reddick owns every scene he’s in as psychopath CEO Christian DeVille, who’s first seen finishing a heavy boxing bag workout with a katana strike. A vengeful God of the corporate world he built, DeVille’s divine status is constantly affirmed by junior executives John (Adam Lustick) and Kate (Anne Dudek), whose fervent devotion doesn’t earn them much, but seems to satisfy them nonetheless. HR rep Grace (Aparna Nancherla) and social media guru Baron (Baron Vaughn) round out the supporting cast; Grace reluctantly provides Hampton DeVille with wisps of morality while Baron serves to snidely smooth out rough patches of plot with internet magic.
The show’s first four episodes are currently available on Comedy Central’s website uncensored, though you’ll need your parent’s cable login. The third episode, “The Pain of Being Alive,” honestly provides a better introduction to the series than the pilot. Grace’s monologue on the average Hampton DeVille employee intercut with Matt and Jake’s discussion of their sleep habits establishes exactly how depressing CORPORATE finds its eponymous subject matter. They’ve even been labeled an anti-business show by aggressively conservative media outlet NewsBusters, which I can only hope means that Ingebretson and Weisman have finally found a way to dismantle capitalism via television.
Wow, they’re like Dawg The Bounty Hunter for fake news!
Offensive without being cruel, silly without being dumb, and depressing without being humorless, CORPORATE realizes the fullest potential of its genre and lays the groundwork for a series that could run as long as WORKAHOLICS while being as funny as THE OFFICE. Dark as it is, CORPORATE doesn’t strike me as a show content to sit and brood. Any of what we’ve seen in the first four episodes could and likely will expand into more meaningful arcs, and I’m excited to see how they’ll do it. Embrace the void. Watch CORPORATE.
CORPORATE airs on Comedy Central on Wednesdays