Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Better Off Ted' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review ABC's "Better Off Ted," a comedy that bears more than a passing resemblance to creator Victor Fresco's short-lived "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" -- which, if you watched "Andy Richter" (finally coming out on DVD next week), you'll know is a good thing.

Given how swamped I am this week, I won't have time for a separate episode post, so feel free to comment on it here after it airs.

29 comments:

A Nonny Mouse said...

I have to take issue with this:

"a breath of fresh air in the present stale environment for TV comedy"

Really? Between The Office, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, and even the strong finish of Scrubs, and The Big Bang Theory which some people who's taste I respect seem to like. That doesn't really count as stale in my book.

Anothermouse said...

@A Nonny Mouse:

But those shows are all into their fourth season or more, aren't they? I thought Alan meant the stale environment for developing new TV comedies and getting them on the air.

Billiam said...

I guess I'm one of the seven people who remember Andy Richter CTU, because I've already pre-ordered it from Amazon.com. Took them long enough to get it out on DVD: I didn't think they ever would.

amysusanne said...

Ditto. I'm looking forward to get my copy ASAP.

This show, just based on the advertisements, sort of seems like "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" if Keith were the lead instead of Andy. I don't have super high expectations, but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

R.A. Porter said...

When I first saw the ads, I thought Ted was begin played by James Patrick Stuart (Keith from Andy Richter). Even now, I find the physical resemblance quite strong between Jay Harrington and Stuart. That can't have been accidental, even if it just means Victor Fresco looks for a certain type for his "handsome and charming" roles.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I see the physical resemblance, but when you watch the show, you'll see that it's not just "Andy Richter" with Keith as the lead. Keith was kind of a sociopath, even though he was Andy's friend, and everything came easily to him because he was handsome. Ted's a more down-to-earth character than that.

Joe Beach said...

I watched this Sunday's Simpsons episode on Hulu last night, and before it started, there was a "sneak peek" for Better Off Ted as the advertisement.
Which...is kinda weird, since BOT is an ABC show and the Simpsons is Fox - plus Better Off Ted won't be on Hulu, but whatever.
The preview wasn't all that funny, but your review has given me more incentive to watch it.

Brian said...

Glad to be one of the seven who remember Andy Richter. Watched a couple episodes on YouTube not too long ago and was loving it. I'll be sure to get the DVD

christy said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this. I kind of wish it didn't conflict with the better half of ANTM, but that's what DVR is for, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Fan #8 of Andy and the Universe .. just re-watched most of them a few weeks ago (torrent is a wonderful thing). Every time I see Criminal Minds I think how wasted Padget Brewster is in that show .. she is soo funny. She needs another comedy.

Jennifer J. said...

I counted and am proud to say I'm amongst the 7 who remember with much fondness ARCtU. My husband and I still talk about that show! Every show we've ever liked gets cancelled. Maybe I shouldn't say that?

I agree with Anon. Padget Brewster is often being wasted. She was fantastic on ARCtU. I wish she'd be cast in a brilliant and lasting TV comedy. Maybe that's an oxymoron these days?

We'll still check Ted out. It'll remind us of Andy; Portia will make us think of our still dearly departed Arrested Development.

Thanks for the review of the show, Alan.

Anonymous said...

I watched and remember ARCTU and this show is nothing like that. I only laughed once during this show (when the guy gave up on the office chair and ran out screaming). The rest of the show just seemed to be trying too hard to be funny and absurd. Absurd only works if there's at least one sane person who acknowledges the absurd moments (think Dave Foley in Newsradio) and while I guess Ted is supposed to fill that role, if you watch him he never really reacts to what's going on around him. Stuff happens, he thinks about it, talks to his daughter, and then decides to do something.

I don't know. I wasn't impressed at all. (And I LOVE Portia Da Rossi, but she can't quite make the role work).

DonBoy said...

I'm noticing that there seems to be a house style for several past and present ABC sitcoms. This show, Samantha Who? and the wedding farce almost nobody watched from a couple of years ago, "Big Day", all feature constant, or near-constant, peppy music, and a brisk style of delivery to match. I don't know how many other shows this applies to - those are just the ones I watched.

Also, I notice the cab driver from Knights of Prosperity as the highly-eager scientist in BOT. And I'm loving Portia de Rossi in this ("that makes me vulnerable, right?")

Jordan said...

I liked that it opened with a shot at that GE ad

Savvy Veteran said...

I was laughing quite a bit throughout, and I think this will definitely become regular viewing for me. It was very loopy and random, but always clever, and that's why it worked for me. I look forward to next week's episode.

Michael said...

@ DonBoy

I spent the entire sow trying to figure out how I knew that guy (cab driver from Knights of Prosperity)

I really enjoyed the episode and will happily tune in next week. I enjoyed ted's demeanor and portia de rossi. My only complaint was with phil. He seemed a little too high strung for my taste.

Anonymous said...

OK Its Big Bang Theory crossed with Mad Men. The writing was smart and the actors are comfortable. Seems like a decent fit with Scrubs.

Puff

Mac said...

I liked it an awful lot. It is obviously doomed.

Dan Coyle said...

Holy shit, that was one of the funniest pilots I've ever seen. "We wanna weaponize a pumpkin" was great. I agree about Veronica being oddly likable. She's never mean or malicious. She just is.

Anonymous said...

That was pretty decent. I might even miss it when it is canceled.

I wonder if eight years from now I will be telling people about 'Better of Ted"? Either way, it is a horrible title.

Tyroc said...

Yeah, the title is kinda meaningless (unless I'm missing something.)

I thought the 2nd half was good but the first quite laugh free (all subjective of course.)

And I will never get the appeal of Andrea Anders as a comedic actress. I'm rooting for her to get frozen next.

Why couldn't they use Irene Molloy?

R.A. Porter said...

Um...@Tyroc? Think classic John Cusack movie and maybe the title will make more sense.

"Gee Ricky...I'm sorry your mom blew up."

bsangs said...

Another "ARCTU" fan here. Loved it when it was played daily on HDNet. And Keith was probably my favorite character.

"BOT" was very enjoyable last night - a lot of laughs. Sadly, I too expect it to be short-lived only because it seems all the clever comedies (and that doesn't include the horrific "Big Bang Theory") never find a big enough audience. But give us sophomoric raunch like "Two-and-a-Half Men"...oh never mind, no need to rant.

Loved the intro when the narration said, "Veridian Dynamics every day something we make makes your life better(cue missle explosion)... usually." Promising start.

JAM said...

I knew we were in for at least a decent time during the intro when the voiceover said, "...and whatever this thing is....".

We were pleasantly surprised and will definitely be tuning in again...

dez said...

I was amused enough by it to want to see it again, although now I'm craving ARCTU eps. I liked the two scientists, Lenny and Karl--er, Lem (Len?) and Phil--most of all.

Tyroc said...

No, I get the Better off Dead wordplay, I just don't think it means anything. We're better off with Ted or we'd be dead? Ted would be better off dead?

Not that I can think of anything better. Company Man? (Bleh.)

Anonymous said...

How about "Research and Development"? Or would the "development" bit remind people of Portia's other show?

"R&D"?

sympathyforthesitcom said...

"Better Off Ted" had me laughing out loud. When was the last time you heard that about a sitcom? I really hope ABC has the good sense to keep this one going. Ted reminds me of cuter, much funnier Don Draper. Anybody else feeling that?

davelee said...

Alan? Still not digging this show? I know it conflicts with your America's Next Top Model viewing, but really?