Have I mentioned that ABC’s “Better Off Ted” makes me extremely happy in a way that few network comedies have managed in recent years?
Why yes. I believe I have. I strongly recommended “Better Off Ted” when it premiered and strongly advocated for its renewal when it ended its season. I endorsed Jonathan Slavin and Malcom Barrett for Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and threw support behind Portia de Rossi for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. I also did a little happy dance when ABC decided to bring “Better Off Ted” back at midseason next year, but since that happy dance wasn’t in print, you probably missed it.
Consider this post to be another happy dance, because “Better Off Ted” is back with brief run of new episodes starting on Tuesday, June 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
You can also consider this to be your friendly reminder, because it’d be plenty possible to be a regular ABC viewer and have no awareness at all that “Better Off Ted” is coming back.
[I’ve seen Tuesday’s episode, “You Are The Boss Of Me.” A few words on it after the break…]
For all of my love of “Better Off Ted” — after only seven airings, it has already taken its place in the current workplace sitcom pantheon alongside NBC’s “The Office” and “30 Rock” — I don’t quite get ABC’s strategy here. ABC has already faltered with airing original episodes of the relatively decent “The Goode Family” and the relatively dismal “Surviving Suburbia” this summer. If “Better Off Ted” draws the same numbers as those two shows did, it will have done nothing to build the show’s audience and it may make the network have some minor second thoughts about midseason promotion and placement. But even if “Better Off Ted” strikes a chord this summer, it will promptly squander that momentum by going back on the shelf until January, when it will be paired with “Scrubs: The New Class” or “After-Scrubs” or whatever the revamped “Scrubs” ends up being.
Is there some tangential strategy wherein ABC hopes Emmy voters notice these new episodes, remember “Racial Sensitivity” or “Win Some, Dose Some,” give the show a scattering of nominations, in turn producing a little buzz?
ABC will also be mixing in the six remaining new “Better Off Ted” episodes with the episodes that have already aired, in some cases multiple times. That definitely feeds on a “If you haven’t seen them before, they’ll be new to you” logic, but also it has a tangential “If you *have* seen them before, you may be confused” aspect. This is just an added jumble for a show that’s been airing episodes out-of-sequence since the beginning.
I guess it just requires that fans pay close attention to their local listings and that non-fans just tune in.
Let’s just start by saying that Tuesday’s episode, “You Are the Boss of Me,” is new and very very funny.
While “Better Off Ted” is capable of biting satire, “You Are the Boss of Me” is a gentle episode and a good point-of-entry for new viewers. The overlapping theme is just that it’s hard for bosses and underlings to become friends outside of work. Nothing too controversial there, right? When Linda (Andrea Anders) and Veronica (de Rossi) start becoming chummy, Veronica begins unburdening herself of secrets, with hilarious consequences. And with his daughter out of town, Ted (Jay Harrington) joins Phil (Slavin) and Lem (Barrett) for some extra-curricular bonding. Three words: Medieval Fight Club.
Ooops. I just violated the first rule of Medieval Fight Club.
Tuesday’s return suffers from one of the show’s few, but persistent, flaws: It attempts to get humor out of Jay Harrington’s Ted. As a straight-man, Harrington is exactly funny enough. Absurdity happens around him and he needs to only be stable and likable in the middle. There are also things that Harrington can say in earnest that are good for amusement, like when, describing Veridian’s new weight-loss brain chip he points out, “While elective brain surgery doesn’t test that great, but it still tests better than dieting and exercise.” What he doesn’t appear to be as gifted with are straight-forward punchlines or physical comedy. There’s at least one meta-gag where Ted attempts to tell a joke to Lem and Phil and they stare at him blankly. It’s funny because it’s true, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to use Ted to get non-self-reflexive laughs.
My favorite moments from the episode include Linda and Veronica’s very different reactions to alcohol (“How can you be sotally tober when I’m complete fit-shaced?”), the fight club hierarchy and, as ever, the week’s Veridian commercial.
Saying anything more would spoil the fun and I really just wanted to offer the reminder…
“Better Off Ted” returns to ABC on Tuesday (June 23) at 9:30 p.m.
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