Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Better Off Ted": The Best TV Show You're Probably Not Watching...

Over the last few years I've watched very little TV outside of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, my nightly dose of Jeopardy and cooking shows. I'll watch whatever is on TV if the mood strikes me, but by and large I usually do other stuff rather than watch. And yes, I know that I've missed out on some of the classic shows of the last decade—The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Mad Men, etc., but I can always catch them on DVD.

So I don't know what possessed me to start watching Better Off Ted when it premiered last spring, but let me tell you: this show is one of the funniest, well-written and well-acted shows I've ever seen. But it's a little quirky, and in typical TV fashion, the shows that aren't-quite-typical fare get bumped all over the place, while the networks continue to put all of their time and energy behind shows that are just like every other one.

The show takes place in the headquarters of Veridian Dynamics, a soulless corporation for which everything from turning co-workers into human popsicles to converting ordinary fruit into a military weapon is part of everyday life. As the corporation makes technological advancements, morals and human rights are heavily neglected.

Nearly every episode comes with a "commercial" for Veridian. Like this one on friendship:

Or this one, when a televised speech by President Obama shifted its time slot:

The cast is led by Jay Harrington, whose slightly deadpan/slightly zany style is perfect for Ted, while Portia de Rossi is an absolutely Emmy-worthy standout as Veronica, the domineering, sexy and just-a-bit-vulnerable executive. Andrea Anders shines as Linda, Ted's unstable, needy colleague, with whom Ted is always just on the verge of flirting, and Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett are hilarious as Phil and Lem, geeky scientists who bring bromance and timidity to a whole new level.

Here's a recent clip where Phil is forced to work with Veronica all alone (she scares him), to disastrous results:

And another, where Veronica delivers a less-than-sympathetic eulogy for an employee who died because he was working too hard:

If you've not watched Better Off Ted, chances are you've either never heard of it or had no idea when it was on. And that's because ABC has relegated it to at least five different time slots on three different days—in the last few weeks it's been shown on two different days!

You can catch Season 1 on DVD and Season 2 on or even on ABC's web site. Much like Dilbert comics, you'll be thankful you're not in this workplace!

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