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Better Off Ted? More Like Let 'Er Cough, Fred! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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June 28th, 2011


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09:50 pm - Better Off Ted? More Like Let 'Er Cough, Fred!
I had heard good things about Better Off Ted when it was airing, and since it appeared on Netflix Instant, more of my friends were raving about it. As it sadly only ran for two thirteen-episode seasons, it didn't take too long to burn through this show that sounded like it was right up my alley.

"Sorry, Ted. The company feels that if we ease up because someone dies, it will only encourage other people to die."

Better Off Ted is a sci-fi corporate satire sitcom. I know, I know, those are a dime a dozen, right? sainfoin_fields actually nailed it with her description of it as "30 Rock with mad science." The show is set at Veridian Dynamics, a multinational corporation that makes things that make your life better. Please take forty-five seconds and watch that commercial, as it gives you an indication of the show's sense of humor. Also, the Veridian Dynamics commercials are basically THE GREATEST THINGS EVER MADE. I was very sad that they didn't do them every episode in the second season. Veridian Dynamics freezes its employees, weaponizes pumpkins, designs killer robots, and basically turns anything into something destructive and awful. But its employees are just regular people trying to do their jobs!

"Can't we develop one product that doesn't end up being used to kill people? Even our fat-free cinnamon roll led to that new sticky bomb."

The titular Ted is our protagonist and narrator, and I really enjoy how fluidly he breaks the fourth wall to address us, even in the middle of dialogue with other characters. He's a single dad, and he wants to set a good, moral, ethical example for his precocious daughter, Rose, even though he works for an evil company. Jay Harrington is a great straight man, and he's very matter-of-fact about his moral dilemmas, freely admitting when he does something that goes against his principles. His boss, Veronica, is essentially Lindsay Bluth crossed with Jack Donaghy: a beautiful, self-centered, corporate shark unable to relate to the world outside of business. Portia de Rossi's delivery is AMAZING, and the writers continue to give her hilarious lines to deliver with verve and/or obliviousness. Ted has the obligatory UST with Linda, who has some unspecified job in the testing department but would really like to get out of there before the corporate environment sucks her soul away. The great thing about Linda is that she's introduced as the love interest, but she's actually a strong character in her own right, and her life does not revolve around Ted at all (they pull back on the romance angle after a few episodes, which helps). And Andrea Anders is not only good with a zinger but also not afraid to make a fool out of herself. Finally, we have our odd-couple scientists, Phil and Lem, who take co-dependency to a whole new level. They hero-worship Ted, who will find them talking to strange blobs, mourning robots, or naming corpses. Jonathan Slavin is hilariously pathetic and awkward. Malcolm Barrett has an odd, deliberate way of speaking that is sometimes annoying but perfectly nerdy. There is no weak link in the cast, and they all have funny material to work with.

"Linda, you can't hurt a baby."
"Well, you can hurt them. They're not indestructible."
"I meant it's morally indefensible."
"Well, what if the baby killed a man?"
"You and your moral puzzles. I just love 'em."


Better Off Ted is fucking hilarious. It rarely falls into the same old classic sitcom tropes,and even when it does, it provides a fresh take on them by virtue of its wacky, offbeat tone. Genuine laughs are plentiful; there's not an unfunny episode in the bunch. The humor is random, and there are punchlines every few seconds, but it all feels natural, not like it's trying too hard. This is perhaps the first sitcom in which the word vainglorious has appeared. The character dynamics are fun to watch develop, and nearly every episode passes the Bechdel test because of Linda and Veronica's attempts to bond. It's a perfect satire of corporate culture, with its endless memos and attempts to boost morale despite not really caring about its employees as people, yet we care about our characters as people. It has silly sci-fi inventions and jokes about aerodynamic bagels. Actually, there are a lot of jokes about bagels. Seriously, this show needs to be on more brilliant-but-canceled lists. Who knows why America didn't embrace it? DOES AMERICA HATE LAUGHING?

"The potential for a long-lasting light bulb is enormous. In a recent study, people's desire to see things ranked third, right after hitting things and trying to have sex with things."

Better Off Ted. You should watch it. That's a fact.

"Linda, just listen to yourself. Those are just facts, and facts are just opinions, and opinions can be wrong."

Well, fine then.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Cibo Matto - The Candy Man

(49 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:squaringkarma
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:11 am (UTC)
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Yes, you need to watch it, Molly! If you liked Arrested Development, Better Off Ted is divine. (IMO.)
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From:squaringkarma
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:04 am (UTC)
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Better Off Ted was amazing! I miss it so much :(

"Friendship. It's the same as stealing."
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
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People lie.

Companies protect their interests.

It's different.
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From:adnirem
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)
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I basically track Andrea Anders from show to show, making sure she knows that I'm supporting all of her non-"Joey" endeavors. And Jay Harrington can also wear a suit like...I don't even know. Something sharp and awesome. A scythe.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:19 am (UTC)
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Did Andrea Anders's parents dislike her? It's like naming your kid William Williams.

Jay Harrington sure does look sharp in a suit.
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From:sdwolfpup
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
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I was really really glad they pulled back on the Linda/Ted stuff so early. It made the ensemble stronger, which made the show stronger, IMO. She was much better as her own character than as the quirky love interest.

Such a fun show. And so quotable!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC)
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Plus, she got to make fun of Ted ALL THE TIME. So that was good. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking Linda. She was great.
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From:loopychew
Date:June 29th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
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Still waiting for the Season 2 DVD, dammit.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
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It makes the WORLD twitchy that only season one is out on DVD. They need to release a complete series set with special features and vulgar outtakes and cast dance parties!
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From:bayushi
Date:June 29th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
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I just saw this show last week. And I loved loved loved it. Deeply loved. It's like watching a show about a subsidiary of Aperature Laboratories.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
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The commercials do sound like they could be narrated by GLadOS, don't they.
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From:raelee
Date:June 29th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
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"When you do care, you care one hundred and crazy percent."

The Veridian Foundation... Helping people. By telling people we're helping the world.

"Because I'm good at everything I do. I'm not bragging, because bragging is the one thing I'm not good at. Although, if I wanted to be, I'd be excellent at that, too. As I just proved." I already loved Portia but if I hadn't this show would have convinced me.

Oh, Better Off Ted, how I miss you. I really need the second season to come out on DVD.
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From:raelee
Date:June 29th, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh... I forgot to mention Phil and Lem and that's just wrong. So here's one of my favorite Phil/Lem moments:

Lem: Look at that. You had a problem in your life and who stepped up to help you? Math. She has always been there for you, hasn't she, Phil?
Phil: If she ever took physical form, I'd leave my wife and marry her.
Lem: Stand in line, my friend.
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From:smrou
Date:June 29th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
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This show is so freaking funny, and much as I love it and wish there were more...I think it might be one of those things that was almost lucky to be cancelled so early. No, lucky is the wrong word, because everyone involved with it should have had steady work for longer and made buttloads of money. But as you said, there isn't an unfunny episode in the bunch, and it's like this perfect little package of hilarious awesomeness, and to me the one silver lining of it having had such a short life is that it will remain a perfect little package of hilarious awesomeness.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
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We do remember our canceled shows more fondly, it's true. But Better Off Ted earns its fondness! Sure, every episode isn't AMAZING, but there was never an episode where I thought, "That was not a good episode." I don't think. Just because of the odd setting, they were able to tell different, hilarious stories rather than the usual sitcom stuff.

Definitely some stand-outs, though. Like "Win Some, Dose Some," "Jabberwocky," and "The Great Repression."
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From:seawench
Date:June 29th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
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Oh Ted, products are for people who don't have presentations.

My friend got me a Veridian Dynamics shirt for my birthday and no one ever gets it. Sigh.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
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I LOVED THEIR PRESENTATION SO MUCH.
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From:lareinenoire
Date:June 29th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I MISS that show! It was one of the few things my husband and I actually watched when it was on the air and then it suddenly disappeared.

(At the moment, we just finished the second season of Deadwood, and OMG. That show is epically brilliant.)
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, yeah, Deadwood is good stuff. I wasn't too fond of the second season because it got really confusing, but the third season was better.
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From:dlgood
Date:June 29th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)

Jabberwocky!

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Better Off Ted was awesome, but sadly a victim of a network not knowing what to do with it. It wound up getting paired with the lame-duck rump Scrubs on ABC. If they had put it on Wednesday with Modern Family and Cougar Town, I think it would have done well. Though it's possible it was too clever to live.

That show had much to love, like all the referenced evil inventions, tiny basement offices, Dr. Bamba, and Mordor the Uncaring.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Jabberwocky!

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If they had put it on Wednesday with Modern Family and Cougar Town, I think it would have done well. Though it's possible it was too clever to live.
Possibly. Possibly, indeed.

That show had much to love, like all the referenced evil inventions, tiny basement offices, Dr. Bamba, and Mordor the Uncaring.
Whee!
From:dotificus
Date:June 29th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
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*adds to queue*

Well, this American didn't embrace it, because I've never heard of it. But I am laughing at the commercial and the lines you quoted.

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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
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Now you have heard of it, and now you can embrace it!
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From:penmage
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
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Interestingly enough, my cousin just insisted that I watch Better Off Ted this weekend.

He also said that Portia de Rossi's character reminded him of me. Um. Is that a compliment or an insult?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
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Ha ha ha ha. Um. I suppose you will have to watch and find out!
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From:etherealclarity
Date:June 29th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
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I actually tried watching a few episodes and wasn't really feeling it. Maybe it's because I'm actually really burnt out on the whole corporate thing right now, so it didn't seem funny to me so much as sad.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 29th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
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Aw. *hugs*
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From:anoel
Date:June 30th, 2011 05:37 am (UTC)
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I freaking love that show. And I miss it. The Veridan commercials were my FAVORITE although Veronica and Phil/Lem are other highlights. And now I want to watch it again. The racist episode I remember being particularly funny.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:June 30th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
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The racist episode got a lot of hype, so I thought it was pretty funny, but not AMAZING. There were more hilarious episodes.

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