Why Comedy Central's Corporate deserves a Golden Globe
There are few awards I treasure more than the Golden Globe for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy. In a world full of inscrutable nonsense, there is a blessed logic to the recent history of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s sitcom prize. Ever since the 2013 ceremony — known to historians as “the first time Tina and Amy hosted” — the trophy has gone without fail to a brand-new series whose critical acclaim far outpaces any obvious ratings-metrical audience size.
This is the category that buoyed rookie shows like Girls, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Atlanta. This is the category that has been tremendously open to Amazon’s incursions, granting Globes to Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the definably existent Mozart in the Jungle. (Technically Mozart won after its second season aired, but its first season arrived just 19 days before the 2015 Globes, so it still “seemed” new at the 2016 Globes months later, to the extent that Mozart in the Jungle ever “seemed” like anything to anyone.) In fact, the last time the Golden Globe Award for TV Musical/Comedy didn’t go to a freshman series was when Modern Family won in 2012. And the preference for newbies has stuffed the nomination ballot with beloved titles too cultish to ever earn any Emmy love: Enlightened and Jane the Virgin, Casual and SMILF, like oh my God now but really not joking Smash.
Given the HFPA’s capricious history, this sorta-streak could end this year, with a repeat win for recent Emmy fetish object Maisel. Maybe not, though. The other easy money would highlight Barry, the delightful Bill Hader hitman comedy whose Hollywood setting gives it a dash of Maisel-y showbiz glamour.
So I say throw that easy money in a trash can full of gasoline and set it on fire! There’s another new comedy this year that was so mind-bending, so eerily realistic but also blitzkriegishly strange, that it feels practically microtargeted at the niche-loving hive mind behind the comedy Globe. I’m referring, of course, to Corporate, the dystopian right-now bleak-com about executive office-bots living through a tyrannical nightmare of corporatized America. The Comedy Central series debuted back in January, after a quiet website launch at the end of 2017. It didn’t light up the cable ratings, but it earned a season 2 renewal, a sign that Comedy Central recognizes the slow-build possibilities of this scathingly funny satire created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson, and Jake Weisman.
Ingebretson and Weisman themselves star as Matt and Jake, a pair of junior executives at an all-purpose monster company called Hampton DeVille. Corporate’s peek into megacorp office life is playfully surreal, full of inhuman social etiquette. PowerPoint presentations are mythic endeavors, and team-building exercises cross the line from wellness-cult oversharing into Orwellian paranoia. As a parable of what optimists insist on calling “late capitalism,” Corporate is essential, lacking even the friend-family warmth of workplace sitcoms like The Office or Superstore. The standout episode “Trademarq” turns into a ravenous takedown of the marketing of rebellion, featuring a Bansky-ish outsider artist whose workshop includes his own board of directors. (Sample line: “I think being anti-brand is really on-brand for you.”) As CEO Christian DeVille, Lance Reddick is a splendidly straight-faced avatar of corruption, a sort of Gordon Gekko for an era when the greedy don’t feel the need to even pretend they’re good.
But Corporate is more than a polemic about societal themes (though if that’s what you’re looking for, HFPA, then here you are!). The characters are surprisingly rich, their emotions and personalities stifled deep beneath a crushing conformity that feels all-encompassing. A character like human-resources rep Grace (deadpan wonder Aparna Nancherla) seems to stay sane only by adopting a brute-force worldview more reminiscent of trench warfare than typical office politics. Meanwhile, senior executives Kate (Anne Dudek) and John (Adam Lustick) have fully outsourced their lives and consciences to the slim possibility of advancement; the most likable thing about them is how utterly unimportant their middleman peacocking is compared to a genuine power broker like Christian.
Ingebretson and Weisman are a great new TV duo. Ingebretson plays the more hopeful drone, his hangdog face making every consecutively worse day feel like a wound reopened. Weisman’s an acerbic delight, halfway American Psycho-ish in his nihilistic ambition. Season 1 was ludicrously confident — the season finale was essentially an episode-long 9/11 joke! — and its heavily stylized form of comedy fits right into the Globe’s history of prizing fresh-out-the-box unconventionals. Consider Corporate, HFPA. It’s funny! It’s weird! It needs more eyeballs! It’s new!
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