Corporate. It’s a bleak comedy show…with the emphasis on bleak.
For me, it’s one of the best things currently on TV. Made by Comedy Central with both seasons streaming on NowTV here in the UK, it also deserves more love.
Created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman, Corporate feels like The Office for a post global recession generation. With episode titles such as “The PowerPoint of Death”, “The Expense Report” and “The Long Meeting”, it wears its source material on its sleeve.
Our windows into the multi-national Hampton DeVille are Matt Engelbertson (Matt Ingebretson), and Jake Levinson (Jake Weisman). They are ‘Junior Executives in Training’ with all the responsibilities but none of the perks. They are in the room of big decisions but not important enough for a seat at the table. Like many corporate employees, Matt would rather be anywhere else than here whereas Jake is here to climb the corporate ladder in any way possible.
Their direct superiors Kate (Anne Dudek) and John (Adam Lustick) use them as a combination of personal assistants, stooges, and general minions. They play off against each other to climb those greasy rungs themselves, trying to appease their CEO.
At the very top of the tree is Christian DeVille (Lance Reddick), the no-nonsense CEO of the monopolistic Hampton DeVille (Slogan: We Don’t Make Anything. We Make Everything™). He gets the least screen time of the main characters. He makes up for it by displaying outward confidence and absolute authority as we get a peek into the neurotic mess behind the facade.
Our luckless heroes’ only real ally and occasional sanity check is Grace (Aparna Nancherla). As the Human Resources Representativ, she takes pity on Matt and Jake, helping them to navigate the corporate maze.
The direction by Pat Bishop (19 of the current 20 episodes made) is superb. The sets feel like they’re dripped in muddy corporate fluorescent lighting, barely containing its antipathy towards the viewer. They feel like they want to hurt you, channelling the negative Zen of a corporate office; a reversal Feng shui if you will. Every corporate drone our characters interact with is believable and ridiculous in equal measure.
As our leads bumble from disaster to disaster, you can feel a little bit of soul seep away with each time they succeed in progressing further along at Hampton DeVille. At the same time, we see Matt’s abortive attempts to escape his environs but never being strong enough to cut his ties.
I have made a conscious effort not to divulge the plot of any of the episodes. Each is well written, my personal highlights being “The PowerPoint of Death”, “Casual Friday” and Season 1 opener “The Void” a close third.
I realise this sounds like the exact opposite of comedy to most people but its pitch-perfect nailing of a corporate role hits close to the bone, and laughing at the absurdity of it all a cathartic release.
Give it a try for a few episodes and see if you can settle in with it. If you feel the premise doesn’t make sense, remember a ‘fly on the wall’ mockumentary in a paper company in Slough/Scranton didn’t at first too.
Ryan Parish, is the Founder of Geeky Brummie
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