Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Better Off Ted - the best comedy you've never heard of

Among the multitude of CBS and NBC comedies, ABC premiered a winner last year, Better Off Ted. Unfortunately, the ratings took a huge dip as the season progressed. Presidential press conferences and other scheduling changes really hindered any growth in the audience. Considering that Scrubs didn't do well either despite its rabid fanbase gives us some hope. Since it has already been renewed, I hope everyone watches the season finale which airs today, Tuesday the 11th.

Better Off Ted is created by Victor Fresco, the creator of Andy Richter Controls the Universe which is kind of similar. It features as Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington), the man in charge of the R&D department at Veridian Dynamics, a megacorporation in charge of everything (literally). They make weaponized pumpkins, sheep, and cowless beef. He is one of the good guys among the disturbing world of corporate America. While he doesn't have much funny things to do, he acts as a foil to the tactics of the company, and his boss, Veronica Palmer (Portia de Rossi) who is embraces the culture wholeheartedly, doing whatever is needed for the company or herself, regardless of the consequences. This allows her to do outrageous things which translates into great comedy. De Rossi's delivery is near perfect, portraying the brusk, cold-hearted executive. I thought her brilliant performance deserved an Emmy nomination, but looking at the ratings, I don't think the committee even watched it.

Linda Zwordling (Andrea Anders) is Ted's love interest. She in charge of the numbers to make sure everything is in regulation. Ted refuses to have a relationship with her since he already used his one office affair with Veronica. Linda is probably the weirdest character, rebelling against the evilness of Veridian Dynamics by stealing creamer among other things. Phil Myman and Lem Hewitt (Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett) are the scientists behind many products. They play off nicely against each other, having different ways of doing things which often come into conflict, but in the end they always come together. Rose Crisp (Isabella Acres), Ted's daughter brings another angle to the show. She often has a problem at school which illuminates an issue for Ted so he can take a side on it.

The show is so unique compared to the other comedies on TV. It is wacky and fantastical, while maintaining a meaning to everything. We get a look at the corporate world in a way we never before could see, from the low-level employees to the ones earning the big bucks.

Each episode is punctuated by a fake commercial by Veridian Dynamics. They are shown in a matter-of-fact even if they are ridiculous in concept. Sometimes they are flat out wild, but the voiceover speaks calmly as if it is perfectly normal which is the point of the show. Where average citizens may see something as absurd, those working intimately in large coporations may see something clever and brilliant.


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