Is “Better Off Ted” better off dead?

Is “Better Off Ted” better off dead?

Apr 18, 2011

In 2009, bronchitis ABC launched a sitcom called, recipe “Better Off Ted”. It follows a successful executive, here Ted Crisp, at a massive technology corporation as he navigates his way through a whack of zany situational comedic bits. Now before you think I’m being sarcastic, you need to know that I really, really, REALLY love this show!

Jay Harrington is pitch-perfect as the noble, but human, Ted. Portia De Rossi is painfully funny as the narcissistic boss of all bosses,Veronica.  Andrea Anders plays Linda, Ted’s co-worker/love-interest. She is ideal. And finally the two science nerds who invent everything are Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin, Lem and Phil respectively. The chemistry between these two is brilliant.

Anyone who knows comedy understands that timing is everything. In this show, the delivery of each line and comedic turn is timed to perfection. I haven’t seen a show that paces itself so well since “Arrested Development” (one of my favourite shows of all-time). I will admit that the first few episodes, while good, were not super strong. That said, it didn’t take long for the chemistry between the characters and the writing to lock in and become tight and funnier than anything out there.

The banter is so clever. Here’s a good example. This is Ted and his co-worker, Linda, having an awkward conversation…

Linda: Are you staring at my butt?

Ted: Hm? No. Your butt is in my staring place, so technically, it’s staring at me.

Linda: Sorry, it’s from a small town. It’s never seen a big business man like you before.

Ted: Well, tell it to act more professionally. It’s making a spectacle of itself.

Good stuff, right? So good. The show is full of that. Here’s another one. This is Ted asking his boss a question…

Ted: Veronica, quick question.

Veronica: What is it with everyone and their questions this morning? “Where’d you learn to drive?”, “Will you marry me?”, “Why would you say that to my baby?”

*Craig continues to laugh as he writes the remainder of this review*…Too funny. Every episode is packed with this smart, witty, edgy writing. And what’s better is the actors carry it perfectly. This really is one of those ensemble casts that work magically together. The directing is great, too. Along with capturing all this great writing with bang-on timing, the director slips in a mock-commercial each episode. These commercials promote the company that Ted works for, Veridian Dynamics. Imagine Jack Handy (SNL) talking positively about an evil multi-national corporation. That’s what these commercials are like and they make me laugh out loud every time.

Let’s face it, every year the big networks cast out a dozen new sitcoms knowing that only a couple are really any good. In 2009, I felt the only decent new sitcoms were “Modern Family”, “Community” and, of course, “Better off Ted”. Unfortunately the latter was brought in mid-season and was lost on the viewers. At the same time, critics gushed and rightly so. Still, the show was only pulling in 4-5 million viewers per episode. Apparently, that is not impressive enough for the bean-counters. So, by mid-second season the meanies at ABC pulled the plug. While the rest of the season was taped, the network didn’t even air the last two episodes. It really is a shame that they ended this great comedic gold-mine. I know it happens all the time but it still sucks to see great art and entertainment die at such an early age.

I have a theory about how this wonderful show got canned. I call it the “what’s-in-a-name” theory. Imagine, you’re an ABC executive. You’re sitting around the boardroom table with all the other big-wigs. Today’s agenda is “What shows do we cut?”. So, you and your cohorts discuss the numbers, ratings, commercial revenue and the like. It’s pretty easy to cut the obvious crap. Then you’re down to two shows that are pulling off equal numbers. But, still, you have to cut one. Let’s say it’s “Better Off Ted” and, oh I don’t know, “Cougar Town”. The discussion gets intense, heated even. Half the room absolutely loves Ted and the other half have a crush on Courtney Cox. Which way does it go? Well, here is where the subconscious kicks in. Obviously the title, “Better Off Ted” is a play on the phrase, “better off dead”. But this is the psychological curse of such a name. In the back of your mind you think, maybe we are better off cutting “Better Off Ted”. Perhaps he is better off dead. You’re not alone. The rest of the executive’s subconscious is chiming the same notion. And so it is; keep Courtney’s bland show and kill Ted. You all know it doesn’t make sense, but your psyche feels right about it. That’s my theory. I mean, it has to be something crazy like that, right? Shutting down a brilliant comedy like this cannot be understood rationally. So unless you have a better reason why ABC threw Ted out, I’m sticking with my “what’s-in-a-name” theory.

Despite the loss, there is some good news. The two seasons carrying this great comedy are readily available for your viewing pleasure. Season One is available on DVD. But even better is Netflix. They have both complete seasons available, including the two episodes never aired. The show may be cancelled, but Ted lives on!!!

About the Author

Craig the Critic


  1. I absolutely love(d) this show! I still watch it on Netflix, bit saw it unfold as it originally aired. Don’t know why it was cancelled – my theory is that Americans don’t get great comedy (that’s why they had to dumb down and ridiculofy (my word for making something ridiculous) The Office. Anyways, the show is sorely missed – at least new episodes are. Old episodes will live on…

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