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Better Off Ted: Better Living Through Comedy

Hello, Blog Nation. My name is Lordofnoyze, alias Lordy, and I have the honor to be the first guest blogger of TV Calling, so I hope to be up to the task. Either that, or I’m off answering calls in a Madagascar-based hotline company. And nobody wants that, especially not the fellow employees there.

I’m a French (former?) student about to embark in a career of journalism. But as a side hobby, ever since my teenage years, I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction for all things TV and TV shows. Soon, the voices in my…..er, I’ve been compelled to write about the good, the bad and the ugly in the now-defunct website “Ligue des Téléspectateurs Extraordinaires”, where I was getting a kick out at reviewing shows like “Boston Public”, “X-Files” or “American Dreams”. But college life, and the aforementioned closure of the site, got in the way, and after a (mostly) failed attempt at starting my own personal blog, I went on hiatus. Until today.

Also, I love pop and hip-hop music, so if you see a few “clever” musical references in some of the blogs, it’s not by pure randomness. And I love inserting them, especially when Lex is not looking. So, without further ado, here’s my first, show-and-prove blog.

For my first guest blog, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about an underrated, and below-the-radar comedy of this year. It just happens to close its season on July 28, burning off the 5 last episodes in summer. A usual move for shows that are cancelled (hello, Pushing Daisies! Dirty Sexy Money! Eli Stone!) , but not when the show is being renewed. I’m talking about “Better Off Ted”, one of the many ABC’s midseason entries (remember In The Motherhood? Yeah, me neither.)

A show that premiered somewhere in March, with little fanfare, and was paired with “Scrubs” on Wednesdays, just before “Lost”. Of course, it attracted under 5 million viewers, and 7 episodes were aired during the “normal” season. The show was as good as dead, but Steve McPherson and his army of drones considered there was “something” there and decided to save the show until Midseason 2010, where it will be paired with the new, almost-JD-less “Scrubs: TNG”, a.k.a. “Scrubs: the Yung, Hip, Med School Years”.

So what was that “something”? Did McPherson lose his mind?

Well, as all network presidents, he’s already genetically insane. But he’s right to keep the show on the air. Here’s why:

Set in the headquarters of a fictional multinational company called Veridian Dynamics, “Better Off Ted” is barely hilarious. No, it’s not the second coming of “Arrested Development”, even if it features a top-notch, pitch-perfect performance of Portia De Rossi as the cutthroat boss, Veronica. But it slowly unveils a sense of absurdity and delicate lunacy that is welcomed.

The 7 first episodes are really solid, mainly thanks to a really good pace in editing and directing (CRUCIAL in comedy), and a very promising cast. The lead, Jay Harrington, is hardly recognizable, but he’s been seen in the promising thriller “The Inside” opposite Rachel Nichols, and with Tim Minear as his boss. That doesn’t tell us much about his comedy chops. But he was really good as the unlucky reporter in “Back To You”, the FOX comedy that never really delivered on its great potential. As things stand, his character, Ted, is a handsome everyman that has to handle daily crises alongside Veronica. He also has to deal with the sexual tension with Linda (comedy journeywoman Andrea Anders), and the everlasting disputes and ramblings of Phil and Lem, the scene-stealing tandem of the show.

Of course, it already seems like the comedy version of “Fringe”, with mad science aplenty. But the show works primarily because of the interaction and cracks between his characters, and the evil and outright absurdity that is Veridian Dynamics is kept in the second plan. Unless you wanna count the hilarious commercials, that illustrate the “theme” of each episode.

Plenty of credit goes to Victor Fresco, creator of “Andy Richter Controls the Universe”, another underrated gem that recently was released in DVD in the USA. But it feels like the show has yet to really deliver and free itself of the conventions, since it already has a universe of its own. For example, the lab rats that are partners of Phil and Lem, or Ted’s daughter, were barely used during the season, but are strong nevertheless.

So, if you want to check those out, the final episodes are being aired on ABC over the next few weeks. Definitely more worthy of your time than, say, the umpteenth season of “Entourage”.

One Comment

  1. leggyorlyb leggyorlyb

    very excellent post!!!!! i look forward to seeing you guest blog some more. i have never seen better off ted, but now after reading your post i will definitely be watching it.

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