Friday, April 10, 2009

Top 7 Reasons to Watch Better Off Ted on ABC

First off, I would like to take a moment and give Peter and me the sole credit for How I Met Your Mother having a banner year ratings-wise.  I'm willing to say that the show's increased viewership this year is mostly related to our constant plugs.  (The show has also been fantastic writing-wise this year, something for which we can take less credit.)  However, HIMYM no longer really needs your support to ensure its survival--it's been renewed for at least two more seasons.  But I DO need you to watch Better off Ted, an ABC sitcom about the research and development firm at a large, slightly evil corporation.  Here's why:

7. Portia di Rossi is fantastic

Almost the entire main cast of Arrested Development have gotten quite a career bump from the canceled series--the show made a star out of Michael Cera and re-made a star out of Jason Bateman, as well as bringing a lot more light to people like David Cross and Jeffery Tambor who had been quietly having already fantastic careers.  But it never seemed to me like di Rossi had gotten the Arrested bump into another great role, until now.  She's the highlight of the show as the titular Ted's boss, Veronica, played with some of the same energy as Lindsay Bluth but directed in a much colder, more megalomaniacal way.  In some ways, she's a female Jack Donaghy, but she's both less human and more prone to error than him.  Check out this great bit of dialogue:

Ted: I have to watch Rose [Ted's daughter].
Veronica: I can wash Rose.
Ted: I said watch her, not wash her.
Veronica: Hmm.  Even easier.
Ted: The fact that you thought I was going to go wash Rose right now makes me thing that you may not know much about children.
Veronica: I know they need to be cleaned.

That sums up di Rossi's character very well, to me.

6. Speaking of which, that dialogue

A lot of shows and movies attempt and fail to get that kind of fast, banter-y funny style of dialogue down, and it often either comes off as overly smart and not actually funny (I'm looking at you, Diablo Cody) or like it's just about subjects too dumb for anyone to ever talk banter-y about.  But Better off Ted does it and succeeds, mostly because it has real jokes:

Ted: We may have created a monster in the lab.
Veronica: It's not a monster, it's a cyborg that can kill without remorse.
Ted: I was talking about Phil.  What were you talking about?
Veronica: I was...also talking about Phil.  (beat)  It's classified. (beat) But it's going to be a fantastic new tool if we can get it to tell the difference between soldiers and children.

Shit yes.  That is just straight funny.

5. Research and development is a great area for a comedy

I can't believe that I haven't seen a comedy deal with this before, because the possibilities for plotlines are seriously endless.  A company that makes new things can always make something new to have a conflict around.  A short list of things that the company has made/done so far (mini-list!)

1. weaponized a pumpkin
2. created ascratchy material for chairs to make employees uncomfortable and more productive
3. cryogenically frozen one of their scientists, just to see what would happen
4. grown beef outside of a cow
5. installed new towel dispensers that only dispence about an inch of towel when prompted
6. installed new motion-sensors that don't sense black people (more on that...NOW)

4. In the most recent episode, "Racial Sensitivity," the company INSTALLED NEW MOTION-SENSORS THAT DON'T SENSE BLACK PEOPLE

I can't stress how much I want to high-five the person who thought of this brilliant concept and the brilliant developments that ensue--first, the company attempts to make amends by creating separate, manually operated "blacks only" versions of everything run by motion-sensors (which is just about everything in the building, including DRINKING FOUNTAINS).  Then, the company decides to hire white people to shadow the black people and set off the sensors for them--a really wonderfully underplayed white slavery joke.  THEN, the company realizes that they'll get prosecuted for racist policies if they only hire white people for this shadowing job, so they have to a black person and a white person to shadow the black person, then another black person and another white person to shadow THAT black person, ad infinitum!

There's little more in the world that I like than a joke that goes to infinite regression.

And there's also little more that I like than a good race joke that doesn't trade in stereotypes OR people's misconceptions of stereotypes.

3. The scientists' lab is a meatbone science-lab

Okay, maybe this is the real reason I like the show.  The portrayal of an R&D lab doesn't even pretend to be realistic, but is rather like a live-action version of a cartoon science lab.  Which is AWESOME.  Beakers of green liquid bubbling everywhere, droppers used for everything, two of the main characters frequently described as "lab partners"--man, I cannot get enough of that.

2. The show gets good REALLY fast

I'll be honest, Better off Ted has a mediocre pilot.  But almost every sitcom ever has a mediocre pilot--it's just something really hard to do quite right.  (Arrested Development and the British The Thick of It are just about the only two pilots I would describe as great.)  So let's go by how long it took other currently-great shows to get great.  The US Office took around ten episodes (until "The Fire"), 30 Rock took eight (until "The Break-Up"), How I Met Your Mother took six ("Slutty Pumpkin"), but Better off Ted took four.  Or, if you're feeling generous, I'd even listen to an argument that it took only two--the second episode, "Heroes," is extremely strong.

1. The show doesn't have great ratings right now, spread the word and KEEP IT ALIVE!

This show has a fresh voice, its own style, and tons of potential, which it's already delivered on in 3 of its 4 episodes.  This show must be kept alive, because it is good television.  WATCH IT.  Do it for me if not for yourself, and you will end up doing it for yourself.

1 comment:

Professor Remix said...

Rob, since I've started taking your TV show suggestions I have never been let down. No exception this time.