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TV Review: Better Off Ted

Better Off Ted - Season 1 premiere

Starring: Jay Harrington, Andrea Anders, Malcolm Barrett, Portia de Rossi, Jonathan Slavin

Created By: Victor Fresco

Premieres: Midseason 2009 (Date to be determined) on ABC.

While the premiere date for ABC’s new series Better Off Ted has yet to be posted by the network, they still saw fit to let us take a peek at the series’ pilot. Better Off Ted is a half-hour comedy that follows Ted (Harrington), the leader of the research and development department at a “morally questionable” corporation called Veridian Technologies. The company makes its fortune by inventing anything and everything. Whether it’s an office chair that’s so uncomfortable, it’ll force people to stay focused on their work (until they eventually go insane) or a pumpkin that doubles as a weapon of mass destruction, Veridian will find the solution.

As head of the department, it’s Ted’s job to keep his team working and producing results. He comes off as a guy who doesn’t usually question the motives behind what he’s being asked to do but it appears that’s about to change. Ted seems to be having his own Jerry McGuire-esque breakdown. Between his budding crush on coworker Linda (Anders) and his concern for his coworker’s safety, added to the counsel he receives from his adorable seven-year-old daughter, Ted’s starting to wonder if maybe what they do at Veridian isn’t always for the greater good. Even as he’s guided by his unfeeling boss Veronica (de Rossi), Ted begins to question the ethics of his job and the company he works for.

In addition to Veronica’s lack of compassion, we have Linda’s small acts of defiance against the company, which includes stealing all of the coffee creamer packets she can get her hands on. Then of course, there’s Phil (Slavin), the jittery scientist who gets even weirder after he’s frozen and then thawed out and can’t seem to keep from occasionally screaming for no reason. And Lem (Barrett), fellow scientist who works alongside Phil and has issues with the company’s attempts to keep people from using too much toilet paper by putting the roll just out of reach from the toilet.

The fourth wall is broken pretty regularly in the pilot as Ted walks us through his job, talking directly to the camera throughout the episode. This, added to the single-camera format of the series definitely works to the show’s advantage. As everyone working in the department has their own quirky personality, the format of the pilot has a sort of Scrubs-ish feel to it. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if ABC was considering partnering Better Off Ted in the same hour with Scrubs. Not only are both work-place comedies but both seem to have a similar style of humor.

I’m more intrigued by Better Off Ted than anything else. While I found the pilot humorous, I’m curious about the premise of the series. It seems more funny to poke fun at how almost inhuman Ted and his boss Veronica are than it would be to watch as he suddenly finds his soul but it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the writers are able to balance the comedy and the story in this series. In the meantime, Better Off Ted is definitely worth checking out… whenever ABC decides to air it.

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