This Corporate review contains spoilers.
Corporate Episode 1
When The Office premiered in 2005, I couldn’t get my Dad to watch it. At the time, The Office was my favorite comedy on the air, featuring winning performances and sharp writing, but no matter how hard I pushed it, Dad wasn’t tuning in. “Why would I want to watch an idiot boss on television when I have one in real life?” he would ask. I couldn’t argue.
Now almost 13 years later, I find myself similarly turned off by Comedy Central’s new original series, Corporate. Created by and starring Jake Weisman and Matt Ingebretson (director Pat Bishop is also a co-creator), Corporate is the workplace comedy for 2018, meaning it’s dark and almost blissfully dispiriting, but that isn’t why I’m left cold by it. Actually, I sort of admire Corporate’s depressive gusto. The problem is that the show’s depiction of white collar, corporate America is so painfully accurate that anyone forced to go work in a cubical tomorrow will have wished they had spent the 30 minutes not watching a fictional version of their reality.
You could say that Corporate owes Mike Judge’s Office Space a debt with its disenfranchised leads and the liberal use of passive aggressive supervisors and office food politics, but frankly these are just universal experiences. Feeling like a cog in a faceless machine is a state of mind for many modern Americans and it makes sense that Weisman and Ingebreston want to explore the often maddening, malaise-inducing atmosphere of office workplaces – I’m just saying that, personally, it’s too close to home to truly enjoy.
Matt and Jake are two junior executives in training at Hampton DeVille, a mega-corporation that makes everything, including a newly launched, enormous tablet device called The Obelisk. Dispassionate about their jobs and thus their lives, Matt and Jake try to survive under the watch of their bureaucratic managers John and Kate (Adam Lustick and Anne Dudek) and the insane owner of the company, Christina DeVille (Lance Reddick). When an insensitive tweet is sent during the launch of The Obelisk, Matt and Jake are tasked with firing the social media person responsible.
Personal hang-ups aside, Corporate has a lot going for it. Shot and colored like a prestige drama and not a sunny sitcom, Corporate uses its visual aesthetic to set the tone and borrows a prestige drama star in Reddick to score some of its biggest laughs. Centering the pilot on a corporate social media faux pas is a clever idea made funnier by a Social Media Guru who takes credit for creating the political upheaval in Egypt. Also, props to the writers for finding a fun twist on the office celebratory cake cliché with Richard, the cake hunter.
That being said, the show’s doldrums humor can feel repetitive. As someone who thrives on earning uncomfortable laughs with his own sad bastard lines, even I found Corporate’s nihilistic, “life is misery” vibe to be tiring. It’s a tricky balance; a joke about apology bukkake is sad and desperate in a hilarious way, repeated jokes about suicide are not. Depressed comedy is a hard tone to sustain and Corporate will have to find this line to avoid fatigue.
So, while I mostly enjoyed the thought and effort that went into Corporate, I still don’t know if I would tune into another episode if it wasn’t assigned to me. Corporate faithfully recreates how soul sucking working at the wrong job can feel, so much so that it left me feeling like I had just worked a shift at one of my old gigs. Someone may find that sort of comedy cathartic, but I’m not one of them. I need less of Corporate’s energy in my life, not more of it.