Farewell to Corporate , a great show that saw the world too clearly

Failure is almost a lost fact of television culture. Streaming services don’t release numbers, except when they brag about metrics you can’t trust. Meanwhile, desperate network honchos cursed with declining ratings swear fealty to post-numeric metrics: Engagement, prestige, buzz, “the fans.” Once there were cancellations. Now you see announcements about a “fourth and final season” or a “wrap-up movie,” and rumors of revivals ever after.

Lifetime scripted drama is just a streaming deal away from popularity. Or maybe it’s all a big lie, creative accounting to pad everyone’s resume. Failure is not a helpful narrative. The people who make the TV show want to keep working, and you get your next job when everyone needs to pretend to be impressed with your last job. The people who watch the show have infinite options, and want to feel they’ve bet on a winning horse. The people who cover the show — hello! — must convince readers (and editors) that this thing they’re writing about deserves the coverage.” data-reactid=”21″>Maybe every series really can be some kind of success in this utopia we obviously inhabit, and even the least seen Lifetime scripted drama is just a streaming deal away from popularity. Or maybe it’s all a big lie, creative accounting to pad everyone’s resume. Failure is not a helpful narrative. The people who make the TV show want to keep working, and you get your next job when everyone needs to pretend to be impressed with your last job. The people who watch the show have infinite options, and want to feel they’ve bet on a winning horse. The people who cover the show — hello! — must convince readers (and editors) that this thing they’re writing about deserves the coverage.

Comedy Central, is a failure. Its first two seasons averaged a few hundred thousand viewers in its original time slot. Those measly totals don’t reflect On Demand or DVR or online views, but I don’t see much evidence of a sizable cult. The show’s official Twitter page has fewer followers than I do, and I mostly tweet screenshots of spaghetti westerns. Comedy Central ordered a shortened final season, only six episodes long. “Shortened final season” is better than nothing, and it’s also a negative affirmation: The equivalent, say, of a boss who ends an email about recent mass layoffs with some especially meaningful exclamation points, “Your hard work is so appreciated!!” (David Simon has been hearing the words “shortened final season” from HBO since 2007.)” data-reactid=”27″>So get one thing straight: Corporate, an excellent show ending Wednesday on Comedy Central, is a failure. Its first two seasons averaged a few hundred thousand viewers in its original time slot. Those measly totals don’t reflect On Demand or DVR or online views, but I don’t see much evidence of a sizable cult. The show’s official Twitter page has fewer followers than I do, and I mostly tweet screenshots of spaghetti westerns. Comedy Central ordered a shortened final season, only six episodes long. “Shortened final season” is better than nothing, and it’s also a negative affirmation: The equivalent, say, of a boss who ends an email about recent mass layoffs with some especially meaningful exclamation points, “Your hard work is so appreciated!!” (David Simon has been hearing the words “shortened final season” from HBO since 2007.)

Jake is the only person who doesn’t watch the series. “I’m not really a sci-fi fantasy binge-watch brainwashed-by-pop-culture type of person,” he explains. What he’s arguing, really, is that medium is the message. It doesn’t matter if everyone loves a show about the moral corrosiveness of technology and modern society, if they express that love on social media platforms while buying things on their smartphone and refusing to have a coherent conversation about the latest round of mass shootings.

Season 3’s standout, “Black Dog,” takes Jake’s overwhelming cynicism seriously as a clinical depression, sourcing his constant rat-a-tat banter to a horrific imaginary friend (voiced by Bob Odenkirk!) nudging him towards oblivion. The penultimate episode, “F— You Money,” will stand as the defining portrait of the sunny existential vacancy corporate hotel chain on a Wednesday, where everyone on the make, from the bellhop to the swagger-y traveling salesman (William Fichtner!) And don’t forget the very special episode about a business trip to the home of a lunatic murderous cowboy billionaire (Kyra Sedgwick! What guest-stars!)

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