Business can be funny! This can be the lesson of Better Off Ted, a sitcom set in the world of corporate politics, interpersonal dynamics, and suicidal turkeys.
Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) is the head of research and development for Veridian Dynamics, a massive company. A nice guy, Ted is constantly looking out for his research team, led by nerd friends Lem (Malcolm Barrett) and Phil (Jonathan Slavin). On the other side, his boss Veronica (Portia de Rossi) is always keeping the company first. Veronica is impersonal, arrogant, efficient, and she slept with Ted. Then there's Linda (Andrea Anders), an idealist who always wants to do the right thing.
Then there are the products. By leaving the exact nature of Veridian Dymanics open, the show can have them work on anything and everything, from flash-freezing its employees to energy patches and the octo-chicken. Better Off Ted usually doesn't even show these creations, giving us instead the aftermath of the mistakes.
I really like Better Off Ted. The cast is first-rate, from Ted as the straight man in the middle of the insanity to Rossi as the stern, unapologetic corporate shark. The dialogue is sharp and amusing ("You know how when you accidentally dose someone, like with an experimental energy patch, and you hope they'll sit quietly at their desks, but instead they wander around unnecessarily drawing attention to themselves? We've done something eerily similar to that") and the format -- no laugh track, Ted often talks directly to the camera -- is reminiscent of Malcolm in the Middle, another terrific comedy.
The tone of Better Off Ted is pretty goofy. Veridian Dynamics may see all its employees as expendable, covering itself with self-serving commercials ("Veridian Dynamics. Individuals---we believe everyone is special, irreplaceable, and will follow the thing walking in front of it. That's why we celebrate all individuals, even ones going nowhere. Veridian Dynamics--because you can't spell 'individual' without 'Veridian.' And 'U.' And an 'L.'"), but everything always seems to work out for the cast. There's plenty of cynisicm about corporate culture, but it's not as merciless as, say, Dilbert.
I could have lived without the will-they-or-won't-they? romantic tension between Ted and Linda, but otherwise Better Off Ted is tremendously entertaining. This show is silly, it's clever, and it makes me laugh. Consistently.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch