The Absurd Office Culture of ‘Corporate’
Season 2 is Just as Hilariously Weird as the First
Few shows come out of the gate stating their tone so well and so clearly as Episode 1 Season 1 of Comedy Central’s Corporate, and few shows maintain that tone so consistently. Corporate’s first episode announced to its audience, “This is going to be smart, satirical, funny, and absurd.” If you like to laugh and be slightly disturbed at the same time, you’ll enjoy this series created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson, and Jake Weisman.
For those who haven’t seen it, Corporate follows the day-to-day of two perpetual junior-executives-in-training, Jake and Matt, cogs in the massive, multi-billion dollar machine of Hampton DeVille. The show skewers not just corporate culture, but American culture in all its vapid glory. Season 1 takes on topics that range from abusing Casual Friday to 9/11 remembrance porn to a faux Banksy named TradeMarq. A fantastic and diverse supporting cast including Aparna Nancherla and Anne Dudek populates the office. Hats off to the three white guys who opted to be inclusive when given the reins to their own show.
Episode 1 of Season 2, premiering on January 15th, suggests that creators Matt, Pat, and Jake are turning the weirdness up a notch. There’s a scene near the end of that episode where CEO Christian DeVille, played by Lance Reddick (American Horror Story, The Wire), tells a “joke” so long and uncomfortable that you wonder how far into absurd-land this show is willing to venture.
It turns out, they backed off, with following episodes mostly returning to the baseline absurdity they created in Season 1. A noteable exception is Episode 5, The Expense Report, where Elizabeth Perkins and Kyra Sedgewick make gorgeous guest appearances in an elaborate tale of lies about 16 margaritas that ended up on a work trip expense report. While not quite as delightfully strange, another favorite from Season 2 is Episode 3 where Jake is tasked with creating a male makeup line for Hampton DeVille and Matt becomes the office make-over test subject.
If you’re looking for a series full of fleshed-out characters, with in-depth back-stories, this isn’t that show. Even after two seasons, I know zero personal details about the character Kate, and scant few about everyone else. But that’s part of the conceit: people don’t share personal details in this cold corporate environment. And Corporate is not trying to be that show. It’s trying to be funny and relevant and uncomfortable, and it succeeds.
Corporate is also not a series where the episodes build to a season finale crescendo of drama and intrigue. You could watch them in random order and find them equally entertaining. Indeed, I found the ending of Season 2 mildly disappointing. Somehow an episode about the futility of living your dreams, performed and directed by three men barely in their 30s who have made it to season 2 of their own TV show, falls a little flat. These guys are living the dream. Lucky for us, we get to enjoy it with them.