‘Corporate’ blends social commentary, comedy

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

Behind every Apple computer, Nike shoe or Nestlé candy bar, there lies an entire conglomerate of empty and soulless corporate shills working to keep their respective mega-corporations afloat. At least, that is what Comedy Central’s newest scripted series would have viewers believe.

“Corporate” follows the day-to-day workings of Hampton DeVille, a clear pastiche of
omnipresent companies like GE and Amazon, with a slogan humorously claiming that they “make everything.”

The show is centered around the misadventures of Matt (Matt Ingebretson) and Jake (Jake Weisman), two underachieving
Junior-Executives-in-Training that provide a refreshing cynical foil for a corporate landscape occupied more with appearances than substance.

The show flaunts its irreverence from the very beginning, opening with a montage of forced smiles dressed in suits. The scene is accompanied by a surreal guitar track straight out of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast.”

The show then finds its stride almost immediately by introducing the two main characters via the company’s “aggressive confrontation” policy espoused by the duo’s supervisors, John (Adam Lustick, “Casual”) and Kate (Anne Dudek, “House). This extremely effective plot vehicle establishes the two disheveled twenty-somethings quickly but thoroughly in order to jump right into the plot of episode one.

This plot, along with that of the follow-up episode, manages to reach levels of social commentary that are rare in television comedy. The pilot finds Matt and Jake tasked with finding and firing an employee that tweeted an insensitive remark about a hurricane from the company Twitter, igniting a discussion about America’s prevalent outrage culture and the nature of social media marketing.

Writers Ingebretson and Weisman, along with director and creator Pat Bishop (“Running Fox”), manage to toe the line between nihilistic comedy and scathing critique with a refreshing deftness, portraying self-hating bleak humor without morbidity and relevant social commentary without self-righteousness.

If the first episode pitched the metaphorical ball, the follow-up knocked it out of the park. Titled “The PowerPoint of Death,” the half-hour riot sees Hampton DeVille in a bid for a defense contract involving a CIA-backed coup in a foreign country.

War equals profits in the corporate world, so CEO Christian DeVille (Lance Reddick, “The Wire”) gleefully tasks Matt with the all-important job of creating a PowerPoint presentation for the company’s pitch. What follows is perhaps the most hysterical look at the military-industrial complex to ever air on the small screen, with middle managers arguing over such minutiae as font choice and bullet points in a presentation dedicated to selling bombs to “war criminals.”

Though the pair does a great job of leading the show, Lance Reddick’s performance as DeVille anchors the first two episodes brilliantly. Reddick plays the role of a greedy and rageful billionaire without a hitch. In a show with a more subdued and less quotable style of humor than Comedy Central’s “South Park” or “Workaholics,” he still manages to deliver the show’s most slap-in-the-face comedic lines.

With only two episodes released at the time of writing, it will be interesting to see if the season can maintain its outstanding quality. The show certainly has the potential to fill the void left by “Workaholics” as the
network’s flagship scripted series, but the format always seems to lose traction with Comedy Central’s audience.

No matter what, one thing is for sure: if the workplace comedy was ever considered by critics to be a tired or played-out genre, Comedy Central did not get
the memo.