It’s time another first-look at a Tv Pilot, this time for the ABC comedy Better Off Ted. I only decided to check this show out after seeing it pop up in a list of shows in danger of being cancelled this season over on Sci-Fi Wire.
The core of the show is about a company called Veridian Dynamics, although it could have easily been ACME, because this really is an American Company that Makes Everything. The show opens with an advert for the company.
“Veridian Dynamics, everyday, something we make makes your life better. Power, we make that. Technology, we make that. Cows, well no, we dont make cows, but have made a sheep. And medicines and airplane engines and whatever this is and allsorts of things. Veridian Dynamics, everyday, something we make makes your life better…” *slide of a missile blowing up a bunker* “Usually”
And I really couldn’t sum up what this show is about any better than that. VD is an evil corporation that makes bombs and other nasty implements of torture, like a chair that increases productivity by being incredibly uncomfortable or creating deadly pumpkins because an newly conquered enemy has lots of pumpkins and you want to find a use for them.
But that alone, while funny, would not be enough to justify this show’s existence, enter the cast. The characters in the show are all lovely, even the R&D boss, Ted, who is in charge of creating all these products, because he has a conscience… his daughter.
The only truly evil character in the show is Veronica Palmer, the big boss lady, played by Portia de Rossi, who is probably better known as Lindsay in Arrested Development. It would be a lie to say that the roles she has played are completely different, so I wont, but that is probably why she works so well as the Ice-Queen-Bitch-of-a-Boss.
The title role of Ted is taken by Jay Harrington, the actor who played Steve in the US version of Coupling (Jack Davenport was a much better choice :P). As I said, Ted is driven by two masters, “Them” referring to upper management and his daughter Rose. The first is the evil devil sitting on one shoulder, the second is the argumentative and judgemental angel that sits opposite. Ted must walk the line between keeping them happy, while staying true to what he knows to be right.
The rest of the cast includes another familiar face, Andrea Anders who played Alex in Joey. This time she plays Linda, a potential love interest for Ted. She is beautiful and intelligent and (at the moment) understated unlike her increasing shrill and over the top character in that Friends Spin-Off. (That might have been a bit harsh… sorry Andrea.)
Finally Jonathon Slavin and Malcolm Barrett round out the cast as the two main scientists. They are a brilliant pairing. Slavin, who plays Phil, is the test subject for a flash freezing experiment in the pilot and the way he handles being selected for this task is superb.
All in all this show is a series of outrageous jokes and ideas that pile on top of one another to become funnier and funnier as the episode plays out. It’s not deep but it is possibly moralistic (it’s hard to take the show seriously enough to absorb the moral lessons though) but it is funny and that is what matters in a comedy.
I enjoyed the creative decision to not include a laugh track, in a strange way it adds more integrity to the show because it feels like it is being played straight instead of for laughs and that has to be its charm. While Ted’s continual habit of talking straight to camera gives the show a documentary feel. If anything bad is to be said about the pilot, it would be how abruptly it ended. Also with the nature of the show, the laughs come from shock and surprise so I don’t know how well they would hold up to repeat views.
All in all I think this is great idea for a show and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next episode.
This has been My Two Cents… Come back on Sunday for another round up of the week’s Tv.