Instant Rec’s: Better Off Ted

Netflix Instant is modern man’s greatest/underutilized invention — You literally could be watching The Adventures of Pluto Nash right now! And without getting your DVD copy out of its case! — but there are so many choices it’s difficult to decide which film or TV show to watch. Insert this series, which makes your life a little easier by giving some thumbs up recommendations to the things I love. Because sometimes it’s hard to tell whether watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme “movie” will be worth the experience (Double Team: yes. Double Impact: no). This week’s recommendation is ABC’s Better Off Ted.

Cast (From Left to Right): Malcolm Barrett, Portia de Rossi, Jay Harrington, Andrea Anders and Jonathan Slavin

Ted Crisp, Better Off Ted‘s leading hunk, is the twentieth century’s Don Draper. Sure, Draper imbibes more during work hours than Ted would (See episode “You Are the Boss of Me” for Ted’s distaste of the Mad Men lifestyle), but both confident businessmen face typical office problems with a certain poise that calms the surrounding characters. These two characters are so closely alike that the similarity borders on sinking Better Off Ted. And if Ted was an hour-long drama instead of a 30-minute comedy, it probably would. Fans would scoff at Ted‘s Draper rip off. The show works because it’s a comedy, a farce that places its characters in outlandish situations and swiftly moves from joke to joke,which offers a powerful yet fun version of Draper.

Ted (Jay Hamilton) works as the head for research and development at Veridian Dynamics, a company that specializes in everything you desire and those products they make you desire. His uptight, domineering boss, Veronica (Portia de Rossi), strikes fear in Ted’s employees, the office saboteur Linda (Andrea Anders) and the buddy scientists Lem (Malcom Barrett) and Phil (Jonathan Slavin). Veridian is a place that so intensely believes in cost cutting that it practices it regularly on its employees. “Money before people,” the company’s motto states … in Latin (“It just looks more heroic”). Whether hesitating to correct motion sensors that fail to detect black people (“It’s actually the opposite of racist, because it’s not targeting black people. It’s just ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is “indifferent.”) or refusing to reboot the computer system after Ted notice his nametag mispelled, the company screws its workers every chance it gets. A penny saved is an employee scorned at Veridian.

The only relief from Veridian’s cold grasp is at Ted’s home, where he lives with his 10-year-old daughter, Rose (Isabella Acres). Ted raises Rose alone since his wife moved to Botswana to “save the world.” The show attempts to capture tender moments at home, but the dynamic doesn’t really work. Rose’s wholesome, smarter than thou attitude is a giant cliche that many, many weaker shows employ and its hard to see past that miscue. But what Better Off Ted lacks in heart it makes up for in witty dialouge. Have a taste:

Ted: And so, if the company keeps hiring white people to follow black people to follow white people to follow black people, by…
Lem: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Ted: …every person on Earth will be working for us. And we don’t have the parking for that.

Phil: Linda, you can’t hurt a baby.
Lem: Well, you can hurt them. They’re not indestructible.
Phil: I meant it’s morally indefensible.
Lem: Well, what if the baby killed a man?
Phil: You and your moral puzzles. I just love ’em.

There are rumors that Better Off Ted won’t be picked up for a third season, which should be announced early this month. That’s a shame because, as Mo Ryan points out, the show could work well alongside Modern Family and its devoted Wednesday night audience. Spread the word and keep this show alive!


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