BETTER OFF TED
Ted Crisp -
Veronica Palmer -
Portia Di Rossi
Linda Zwordling -
Phil Myman -
Lem Hewitt -
Rose Crisp -
OTHER SCI FI COMEDIES
Veridian Dynamics is a huge multinational company with absolutely not ethics whatsoever. Ted Crisp is the head of Research and Development. He does have ethics, but they seem to be remarkably flexible. When the company decides that it wants to test out its new cryogenic freezing process on one of the employees of his section, he makes it happen. When it all goes wrong, he has to deal with the fallout.
BETTER OFF TED is a breath of fresh air insofar as it appears willing to take its basic premise of a company with no ethics at all and run with that, using that as an excuse to be totally non-pc and willing to mine humour out of pretty much anything. In this opening episode there are more lines that cause a sharp intake of breath because of how close to the edge they are sailing than make you laugh out loud at how funny they are.
And that might be a problem right there. It is great for a comedy to be smart, but it also has to be funny and this one is not as funny as it would like to think it is, at least not on this first showing.
Jay Harrington anchors the show nicely as the man whose ethics are almost as questionable as the company's, but who is likeable and as charming as hell to go with it. Portia Di Rossi is the 2 carat bitch who is so beyond the pale that she makes Ted look good and Andrea Anders is the likeable, slightly goofy Linda, clearly a love interest for Ted. The two scientists, Phil and Lem, are uber geeks and might very soon become tedious if they are not given funny stuff to do.
The mixing of high-tech concept, edgy anti-corporation stuff and more traditional situation comedy elements has a great deal of potential, but it will have to up the funny factor if it is to become mandatory viewing.Top
Phil has developed some unfortunate side effects from the cryogenic freezing that causes him some issues whilst working on the important beef-not-from-a-cow project. A fake award is created to keep him from suing the company, but his working relationship with Lem suffers as a result.
This second episode proves to be as clever as the first, but not a huge amount funnier. The relationship between Ted and Linda has developed a bit and Veronica's ruthlessness and complete lack of people skills remains funny, but she is a one-trick character to date. The scientists are even more geeky and less funny as a result.
The cow-free-beef idea is quite a good one and the first taste testing comes up with the very funny 'it takes like despair' moment. The fake advertisement prior to the episode (this looks like it could be a regular thing) is also pretty funny. It's a shame that the rest of the episode can't match up.Top
Ted is forced to take his daughter Rose into work with him for the day, which is difficult when you are discussing a deadly new weapons system and the contamination warning systems keep going off.
The quota of funny remains depressingly low despite the comic potential in having a little girl in a morally bankrupt corporate environment. Add into that the running story of Ted and Linda's attraction and it ought to have been a slam dunk, but proved to be a damp squib instead.Top
Veridian Dynamics introduces a new sensor system for all the electronics in the building only to find that black people's skin does not register. Ted, meanwhile, meets Linda's boyfriend.
The non-pc edge is back in BETTER OFF TED, but the comedy remains absent. The scenario is all very clever and taken to some amusing extremes, but the laughs just stay away. Even Ted's relationship with Linda is uninspired.Top
Competition is good and both Ted and Veronica are insanely competitive. When getting more funding from the military for their latest project is reduced to who can sell the most wrapping paper, innovation is inspired.
Which is more than you can say for the episode. It still isn't funny, though the characters remain likeable and the plotting is clever. Maybe we're just missing something. Linda getting accidentally drugged up and insulting everyone before stealing a baby ought to be funnier than this.Top
Ted's name falls off the computer and the company won't reinstate him since it will require a complete reboot of the system. He subsequently walks out, but everyone wants him back and decide that the system is not all-powerful.
Anyone who has ever tried to get and IT system to carry out what should be a simple task will be able to empathise with how quickly it becomes a nightmare and how frustrating it is. Sadly, they won't be able to laugh about it because there 's nothing to laugh about.Top
A personnel survey shows that the majority of staff at Veridian Dynamics are unhappy with their bosses. Veronica tries to pretend that she likes her staff and is interested in them. Ted goes after the over 50s men, which is the only group he didn't score positively with and Linda's suggestion about personalising workspace has unexpected side effects.
Personnel surveys - what are they good for? Of course people are unhappy with their bosses, they're their bosses after all. The best things about this episode is the way that the company decides that the the staff can't be allowed to personalise their own cubicles, but do it for them in four different themes (cats, cars, space etc) which starts out by creating new friendships, but then turns to prejudice and segregation.
This all has the usual cleverness and quality performances, but still remains low on the actual joke scale.Top
Ted discovers a very different kind of fight club going on in the basement of the building whilst Veronica decides to take Linda on as a friend.
Only the geeks at Veridian Dynamics could take the concept of fight club and decide to turn it into medieval jousting. That, though, is the extent of that joke. Veronica is a nasty woman who decides to share some awful secrets with Linda (having her own grandfather deported etc), but that is as far as that joke goes.
BETTER OF TED remains 'good characters, good actors in search of a joke'.Top
When a part organic computer stars leaking acid into the workplace, everyone has to find some other space. Linda moves into Ted's office and he finds that he can't concentrate being so close to her, so he moves in with Veronica who has her own unique form of stress relief.
Ted and Linda are placed in close quarters and the concentration on the pair leads to more smiles than most of the previous shows. These are characters with chemistry to spare and it is nice to see the comedy catching up with them. Lem's attempts at connecting with a pretty lab colleague fall flat and Veronica provides a flash of entertainment value as she goes all Robert DeNiro on a cushion.
It's also nice to hear the sci fi sound effects in jokes when the computer room is finally visited.Top
Veridian Dynamics is being sued because a perfume that it created turns a very small number of women into attractors for savage wasps. Linda agrees to be the company's scapegoat since Ted is lying about an email that she sent him warning him of the problem. The truth is embarrassing for Ted to admit since the loss of the email was caused by his tryst with Veronica on the desk in his office.
Once again the episode is plotted to within an inch of its life in the very clever way that has been the hallmark of BETTER OFF TED, but it also has the vital lack of funny comedy that goes with that. Interestingly enough, it is Veronica that is given slightly more depth by the end.Top
Ted has father issues, so whilst Veronica finds out that her father and deadly business rival is dying he experiments on himself with a hair growth formula.
Everyone has issues with their fathers and so it is revealing about the characters how they relate to their various dads, revealing but not very funny. The hair growth issue also proves to be less funny than it ought to have been.Top
When Linda wants to take part in a green initiative that Veridian Dynamics is advertising with no intention of actually carrying out, Ted creates a fictitious project called Jabberwocky to channel funds to her. Matters snowball and soon Ted is presenting Jabberwocky to 2,000 staff members as the way forward for the business.
BETTER OFF TED is once more cleverly observational and the way in which people react to not knowing something is right on the money, but there aren't enough actual jokes to carry it off. The presentation scene is quite good though.Top
A demonstration of facial recognition software that can locate any photograph or video of a person online reveals a picture of Veronica acting as an assistant to a stage magician. She immediately determines to give up that role, but finds that without the stress relief the stage performances provided her only option is to slap everyone. Linda, meanwhile, sets up Ted on a date with her friend.
This is the first season finale, though it is interchangeable with any other episode in the series. There are no cliffhangers or resolutions to running storylines and you could easily be forgiven for not knowing that this marked the end of the first season.
It has to be said that Portia Di Rossi looks fabulous in the assistantís outfit and the recurring mystery of quite where she secretes the dove that forms part of the act is a funnier joke than most of the rest of the series has managed to provide, but it also has to be said that the show has remained clever but not actually very funny right to the end.Top
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