Today marks the fifth anniversary of Better Off Ted going off the air. Beloved by fans, but unable to find an audience thanks to ABC moving it around the schedule, Better Off Ted fortunately remains preserved forever on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it, allow us to show you why you should.
The Unique Humor
Better Off Ted was a hilarious mixture of science fiction, workplace humor, and Kafkaesque dark comedy. Episodes were as likely to hinge around employees doing insane things out of fear of corporate as they were around a new product going horribly, entertainingly awry; often a scene will have a joke centered around the plot, a sight gag, and wordplay crammed all in the same scene. One memorable episode sees Ted nearly get fired because somebody enters his name into the system incorrectly, which ultimately has to be solved by crashing a worldwide computer network with a jetpack and a whole mess of employee ID badges, and another features Veridian Dynamics founding a cult around a dead employee. And yet somehow it’s still a light comedy.
Anchored by Jay Harrington as Ted and Portia Di Rossi as his icy, ruthless boss Veronica, Better Off Ted is an example of perfect casting. Everybody runs with their role, and it helps that the show gives everyone at least one funny moment every episode. It also helps that nobody’s entirely right; Linda may serve as something of a moral compass, but even she has her…puckish moments:
In particular, it’s baffling Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin, who played dear friends Phil and Lem, aren’t paired off more often, because really, the show could have been carried by them alone. They’re not mad scientists, just a little too enthusiastic for their own good:
The Hilariously Unethical Veridian Dynamics
Better Off Ted pulled off the rare feat of featuring a lot of dark comedy without coming off like a nasty or cynical show. Veridian Dynamics is actually an awful place that uses children for janitors, turns pandas into assassins, and has Money Before People as their motto. Still, nothing sums it up quite like their advertisements, which often were worked into the actual ad breaks:
Its Mastery of Corporate Doublespeak
Anybody who’s sat through a PowerPoint needs to watch the Jabberwocky episode, where Ted’s attempt to do something nice for his office crush spirals into a full-fledged rumor campaign. To save Ted’s ass, he and Veronica stage a presentation. And not just any presentation:
If we’ve sold you, or you just want to watch all 26 episodes again, it can be found on Netflix. It seems unlikely the show will return; five years later, everyone’s moved on. But at least we can enjoy 26 great episodes in one run. Besides, if you live in the Northeast, it’s not like you’ll have anything else to do tomorrow.