Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Newest Favorite TV Show

On ABC's hilarious comedy "Better Off Ted," Veridian Dynamics is sort of the Lou Costello to Cyberdine Systems' Godzilla. Sure, they're an evil corporation. But they're a funny one. And since the show is set in the Research and Development Department at Veridian, it allows for loads of ridiculously funny Sci-Fi geek moments.

The Ted of the title is Ted Crisp, played by handsome TV vet, Jay Harrington, a survivor of ABC's disastrous attempt to recreate the BBC hit, "Coupling." Ted is the head of R&D and oversees two geeky scientists, Phil and Lem (more on them in a bit). A widowed Dad raising a smart and adorable daughter, Rose (played sweetly by young Isabella Acres without a whiff of precociousness), Ted is the anchor that somehow holds his insane crew together. His boss, Veronica (Portia de Rossi) is a cold-hearted, fear-inspiring steely bitch who only does the right thing when it makes her look good. And then there's the newest member of Ted's team, Product Tester Linda (Andrea Anders, a survivor of NBC's ill-fated "Joey"), an aspiring anything, working for an evil corporation while she figures out just what she's aspiring to be.

As for the evil corporation itself... well, they're more comically evil, than anything and probably not very effective at doing any real evil. So what if they've tried to weaponize pumpkins; automated the building with a reflected-light recognition system that couldn't detect black people; used a coworkers at-desk death to incite fury of extra work hours "in his honor;" froze an employee and created scented lightbulbs that quickly degenerated into the smell of rotten meat. Oh yeah, they also create d a squirrel so small, it was "highly inhale-able." Well, that's to say, Lem and Phil created it. As two best friends in science and nerdom, Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett are perfect comedic compliments. Phil (Slavin) lives with an unnamed harridan of a wife, while Lem (Barrett) lives in the shadow of his scientific genius mother (guest-star Diahann Carroll).

Di Rossi is perfectly cast as Veronica, a woman so-driven to succeed she will literally do almost anything to do so. Incredibly self-confident and predatory, her icy gaze can turn men (well, at least Lem and Phil) to quivering piles of gelatin. With her severe hair, fitted suits and clipped American accent, the Aussie actress gets this role and plays it for all its worth. Anders, as the smarter-than-she-lets-on Linda is delightful, and I'm glad to see the writers continuing to explore new places for her to go and new kinds of crazy to discover about her. If Linda worked where I do, we'd so be friends.

But it's Harrington's performance that holds the whole thing together. They only character to break the "Fourth Wall" and address the audience directly (ala "Malcolm in the Middle"), Ted is the audience's link to reality. Mostly sane and usually rational, and it is he with whom we're meant to identify most. In other hands, Ted could have turned out to be a bore, but Harrington's charm and good looks (he has a terrific smile) keep us engaged and his running commentary is the glue that holds the whole thing together.

Unlike the other current workplace hit "The Office," "Better Off Ted" doesn't try to be real in any sense of the word. The ridiculous "science" being performed in the company's labs borders on Pythonesque, while the office politics plays more like Dilbert, but without evil cats or pointy hair. It reminds me of NBC's late '90's show "Working," which was another edgy-evil corporation satire starring Fred Savage. I liked "Working," but it eventually got very silly and weird for the sake of being weird. Unlike that show, "Better Of Ted" manages to keep the weirdness level to a minimum, while ramping up the more familiar absurdity of office-life. A terrifically funny cast consistently and hilarious writing (the commercials for Veridian are genius) make "Better Off Ted" my Newest Favorite TV Show. **** (Four Stars)

Here's a clip that's perfectly SFW:

This next video is what prompted me to write this post, in the first place. It was posted on Soicalite Life (via). It's apparently from an upcoming obscenity-laden (and heavily bleeped) episode. The VERY NSFW video is pretty danged funny, though:

And finally, a couple of those hilarious Veridian commercials:

More, anon.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I watched this show for the 1st time last night out of enui... it was American Idol auditions or some weird show that the Husband watches about really fat people doing exercices & crying... so I opted for BETTER OFF TED.

I thought this show was great... funny, stylish, sexy & Portia Di Rossi is a hero to me. What an amazing, funny gay woman! Thank gd for Portian & Jane Lynch! Who tought that lesbians could be so funny!?!